Sunday, May 28, 2017

Diamond Mining: Lure of the Lucre & Tigers

Eventually after much hullabaloo the diamond project in Bunder Region of Madhya Pradesh was shelved by Rio Tinto. Citing financial reasons the concern handed over the project to Government of Madhya Pradesh along with all the assets.   

Obviously the Bunder Region was not a good enough take for the company despite which they got the approval to go ahead. The project was mired in controversy right from the inception as the land contained a biodiversity rich profile. Situated near Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, the area is a link between the local ecosystems and constitutes vital tiger corridor. The diverse floral habitats are home to leopards, sloth bears, chinkara and other mammals, birds and reptiles. 

Tiger experts unanimously agree upon the status as it falls under the tiger landscape. Under the stalled project more than five lakh trees were to be felled spelling an environmental disaster. Under severe opposition and administrative hiccups the project viability was deemed as poor. Eventually wiser council prevailed.    

The project envisaged reaping of rich harvest of roughs up to the extent of 27.00 million carats of rough. The open cast mining was discouraged and the company was advised to  employ alternative means to dig for diamonds.  

But the disaster still seems to be in waiting since other investors are being sought by the concerned bodies. It seems the major discouragement is the environmental bye laws in India. Nevertheless projects which are ecological disasters should in the first place never be envisaged. By the time the mining would reach end cycle we would have lost a substantial forest region for ever.    

Central Indian States MP and Chhattisgarh are rich in mineral wealth including diamonds. Encouragement is being accorded to major global players to explore extensively and mine the invaluable ores.   

But the lure of the lucre would fetch in loosening of laws in order to enable global players to mine with ease. India has impressive diamond polishing industry but most of the roughs are obtained from Belgium. Finding substantial deposits for large projects is enticing for Governments aiming to become of the major diamond producing regions in the World.       

Hence the sword of Damocles hangs over our valuable resources some of which are situated in the finest wildlife habitats.