“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
BY SURYA PRATAP
The mining project undertaken by the Aditya Birla Group’s Essel Mining & Industries Limited (EMIL) in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur district has been making headlines for the past few months, as it would have a negative impact on the Buxwaha forest, which is located near the site, and would result in the felling of over 2,00,000 trees.
THE OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT
The project will cover 364 hectares of forest area and cost 55,000 crores. The proposed mining project will need the felling of 2,15,875 trees. There are thought to be 34 million carats of raw diamonds in the vicinity.
With an expenditure of around 2500 crore, the company wants to build a fully mechanised opencast mine and a state-of-the-art processing plant for diamond recovery. When fully operational, the project is expected to be one of Asia’s largest diamond mines. The mining lease should be completed by the end of the fiscal year 2022, according to the business.
According to the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM), Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for 90.18 percent of India’s four diamond-reserve states – Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. In these states, the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) is aggressively chasing promising diamond blocks.
HOW WAS ADITYA BIRLA GROUP GIVEN THE AREA?
Rio Tinto, an Australian mining corporation, was awarded a prospecting licence by the Madhya Pradesh government in 2006. The mine proposal for 954 hectares in Buxwaha had been conditionally approved by IBM. However, the project was met with strong criticism, and the government withdrew its approval in 2016, claiming that it would jeopardise a rich forest region and a tiger corridor between the Panna Tiger Reserve and the Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Australian corporation quit the project in 2017 after investing roughly USD 90 million over 14 years. For the USD 90 billion diamond mine project, the MP government has requested new bids. It had, however, reduced the mining area to less than half of what Rio Tinto had originally leased. The 50-year lease was awarded to EMIL in a second round of bidding in December 2019.
According to reports, the mine might bring in Rs 1,550 crore in annual revenue for the MP government. EMIL is now pursuing numerous regulatory approvals, such as mine plan approval, environmental and forest clearances required for the execution of a mining licence, and so on. The company plans to complete the mining lease by the end of the fiscal year 2022 and begin operations after that.
WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES?
Environmentalists have raised severe concerns about the project’s impact on biodiversity and the livelihoods of communities who rely on the trees. The project was put on hold when activist Neha Singh filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Supreme Court. Several campaigners have also expressed alarm about the region’s current water shortage.
Groundwater recharging is only possible through seasonal water bodies. and putting a strain on these resources would jeopardise the natural equilibrium The project’s water needs is predicted to be 5.9 million cubic metres per day in the pre-feasibility assessment. A seasonal nullah will be diverted to meet this requirement by constructing a dam. The reservoir’s water storage is projected to be around 17 MCM (million cubic metres).
The area is still regarded as backward. Around 7,000 residents in the territory’s 17 tribal communities rely primarily on forest goods such as Mahua, Tendu leaves, Chironji, Amla, and others for their survival. Their income sources would be snatched away by the proposed mine. Mahua, for example, earns a family between Rs 40,000 and Rs 1,00,000 per season.
In this light, it’s worth noting that the Central Ground Water Authority has previously designated the Buxwaha region as semi-critical. It is located in the drought-prone state of Bundelkhand, where there have been several instances of water scarcity.
WHAT DOES THE FOREST OFFICER FOR THE DISTRICT SAY?
The District Forest Officer (DFO) stated, however, that his team has been visiting the forests and tribal settlements on a regular basis. He added that the villagers are not opposed to the proposal and are extending their support because the mines would provide jobs. Locals are ‘welcoming the mine,’ while ‘outsiders’ have been protesting.
PROTESTS IN THE RECENT PAST
Protests against this massive mine project have been escalating since EMIL bought it in 2019. On June 5, World Environment Day, a group performed a symbolic ‘Chipko movement’ in the Buxwaha forest. In the midst of the COVID outbreak, other protests are being organised online.
SURYA PRATAP, LAW STUDENT AT GALGOTIAS UNIVERSITY & ASSOCIATE EDITOR AT LASDES E-JOURNAL, CAN BE REACHED AT [email protected]