Ways for safer mining
The reddish hills dot large tracts on the Goan landscape by mounds of waste soil and other debris that have been left behind after iron ore was dug out from some mines accumulating since 1960, the dumps as they are commonly known are estimated at 750 million tonnes and consists of top soil ,mud and iron ore. With little having been done to clean them up in 50 years, the dumps are said to pose a serious environmental hazard. But a technical point of view has been lost in the debate that focused mainly on the political and social fallout of illegal mining. This missing link is critical.
Traditionally, Goa has been home to low-grade in nature and unsuitable for domestic consumption, it has therefore commanded a far lower price in the considering, only the best quality of ore mined could be sold, there has been a growing stock-pile of sub-grade ores, laterite and clay over burden, which has been accumulated for many years and was lying unutilized due to ‘no economic value’ with no takers.
Mines stacked such waste generally outside leasehold areas and sometimes closer to the pits with due approvals as it was operationally unwise, unsafe, unlawful to stack it on ore bearing areas closer to pits. However, it is pertinent to note that the Chinese boom in mid-2000s, changed the full scenario where the demand of iron ore forced steel makers to find ways to use low grade iron ore this development brought a unique opportunity for Goa mine owners.
Low grade hematite ores in Goa can be used best when they are blended with high grade magnetite concentrate, but that is not available in India whereas, it is available plenty in China naturally, mine owners in India scouted around to find buyers for the otherwise-unusable stock piles in their areas.
This is the reason behind the current hue and cry on low-grade ore sales from the dumps. financial benefits notwithstanding, removal of these dumps that have existed anywhere between 20 and 40 years can only have a positive impact .some of the benefits include reducing the extent of environmental damage lowering the need for additional dumping areas, accessibility to safe mining operations and furthering the vision of zero waste mining.it should be noted that the removal and economic use of old stockpiled waste or low grade ore needs to be done till such time that the opportunity exists. mining operations are governed by relevant safety laws and environment clearance limits. Lease holders are required to plan mining operations in a way so as to ensure safe mining with due regards to conservation of available national resources. however it is necessary to ensure that there is no misappropriations and safe mining is carried out. Statutes and regulations should be applied and monitored rightly to facilitate safe mining, with the scope for ensuring appropriate economic use of such low-grade stockpiles in the interest of the industry ,state and its people. It is therefore necessary that existing low-grade ore dumps are handled properly , albeit with safety as an important parameter.
Further stock piles should be removed in a scientific and safe manner and it be ensured that the stockpiles do not cause additional environmental damage. adequate infrastructure must be available for safe mining, processing and evacuation .a broader perspective and effective regulation will lead to clarity, transparency, responsible mining and will ensure that there is no impact on the environment.
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