In the modern-world, for rapid industrialization mines and mining of minerals play a very significant role to meet our increasing demand for various essential materials to ensure a better living. Minerals are the main raw materials for thermal power plants to produce energy, integrated iron and steel, aluminium and thousands of other mineral based industries for providing various types of metals, alloys, cement and chemicals. India, particularly Odisha, is rich in mineral resources. Unfortunately, mostly mining in Odisha is not being carried out using better technology and in an environment-friendly manner. As a result, forests are getting destroyed, water resources polluted, the most valuable top soils and ore fines are being lost in the waste overburden and the air gets toxic. In addition, there is no proper mine closure practice, due to which mines project a hazardous site with very limited opportunity for rehabilitation and post-mining land use development.
Due to unscientific mining and mineral processing, a lot of water is consumed and at the same time most of the water in the area as well as in the downstream gets polluted with mineral wastes, including mineral beneficiation tailing and slime. The dusty atmosphere and polluted water create unhygienic conditions for workers as well as the people living in the region. Further, mine closure programme is seldom planned and implemented, thereby leaving the mine area devastated and unproductive after completion of mining.
In view of such damaging and disastrous situation in mine areas, in mid 1980s as the Director of Institute of Minerals and Metals Technology (IMMT), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Bhubaneswar, and Director General, CSIR, New Delhi, planned and implemented a project named as Mines, Minerals and Habitat (MAHA) in a chromite mine at Sukinda, Odisha, belonging to the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), for environment-friendly scientific mining with integrated mine area development. After its successful demonstration, the MAHA programme was taken up at a limestone mine at Lambidhar, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, with similar success. The MAHA programme was very much appreciated by the experts in the area and also the then Prime Minister of India.
It is suggested that, by adopting mining with integrated developments of mine areas similar to ‘MAHA’ programme, the following benefits are likely to be derived:
(i) Through proper planning and implementing modern mining practices, it would be possible to conserve and utilize the minerals and other resources to the fullest extent while increasing the productivity of the mines during as well as after mining.
(ii) The low and off grade minerals extracted during mining can be beneficiated and utilized. The mineral fines generated during mining and recovered after beneficiation can be agglomerated into pellets and briquettes at the site and transported for further use in producing value added products.
(iii) By preserving the existing water resources and harvesting the rain water both in the mine pits and recharging the aquifer, the mining authorities can have sufficient water for their own use as well as for utilizing in afforestation, dedusting of the roads and providing local people for agricultural and domestic purposes after suitable treatment.
(iv) Through plantation on the backfilled and barren areas with fast growing and commercial trees and protecting the water bodies, the mining environment can be kept clean and green.
(v) In order to enhance the efficiency of mining and at the same time to keep the mine environment clean, all efforts should be made to harness and use solar and wind energy in place of costly and green house gas producing fossil fuel based energy.
(vi) By properly planning and implementing mine closure programme from the beginning of mining, the area can be productive and habitable during as well as after completion of mining.
(vii) Various programmes including afforestation, harnessing renewable energy, water resource management and mine closure programme can provide employment opportunities to the local people in various ways.
By training and employing the local people in mining and allied activities including the execution of various Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, the mining company while getting a lot of cooperation from various stakeholders, can improve the efficiency of mineral production and socio-economic condition of the mining workers as well as the local people.
It is suggested that, integrated mining and mine area development programme as mentioned above should be carried out at every mine in Odisha under the direct supervision of the state government. This programme covering to mining, mineral processing, management of wastes, protecting and developing the water, energy and forest resources and above all taking care of the workers and the local community, when carried out successfully, will bring a lot of socio economic developments. It is also suggested that, similar programmes should also be taken up in the mines of other states in India.
(The Writer Is a Noted Metallurgist)