THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY RATIKA SRIVASTAVA A STUDENT OF SYMBIOSIS LAW SCHOOL, NOIDA.
‘What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another’
The aforementioned mentioned words clearly depict ‘the importance of conservation of environment in our lives’. However, there are some industries which in spite of this evident fact, have greatly contributed to the degradation and also have posed major threats to the same. Mining industry is one of such industries. This industry is one of the major cause of environment degradation as extraction of minerals and many such activities causes imbalance in our ecosystem. The extent of degradation is major from this industry as there are lacunas in existing laws of mining industries which needs to be formulated so as to cater the growing need of preservation and conservation of environment.
This paper is an attempt to discuss the growing environment issues in mining industries. Also, it addresses the legislations on the same, and discusses how far the policies incorporated in legislations in consonance with environment. Also, it suggests some major recommendations requirement for the development of mining industries so as to better serve the purpose for which the act was formulated.
India is one of the largest democracy having seventh largest geographic area around the globe. The country is one the developing economies of the world. It is endowed with huge mineral resources which includes all kinds of minerals e.g. metallic, non-metallic, ferrous, non-ferrous and metallic minerals. It has approximately more than 20,000 mineral deposits. Also, the country is one of the ‘leading producers of chromite, barytes, talc, coal, lignite’ etc. It has more than ‘2, 628 mines in India and major concentration of mining activities is in Gujrat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal’. These states contribute 92% of the total mines of the country.
India’s mining sector contributes approximately ‘four percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)’ and has one of the largest employers working under it, approximately one million which accounts to four percent of the Indian workforce. However, many of mines are located in environmentally sensitive area within forests which has largely lead to environment degradation. Though, ‘the sector contributes to the economy of the country and there are legislation governing such activities for which framework is also laid in Constitution, but still there are many challenges which the environment is facing due to the activities conducted by this sector’. This is one of the major issue which has been addressed in past few years and also many amendments have been made in legislations of mining to overcome such devastating effects.
India’s mineral and mining sector operates under a ‘federal structure wherein the central government formulates all legislations concerning all minerals except for some minor minerals for which legislation is formulated by state government’. The recognition of managing the framework of mining sector is embedded in our constitution. The direct reference of which is provided after the 42nd amendment in part IV relating to Directive Principle of State Policy. Article 48 which obligate the state ‘to protect and improve the environment’. The state as well as central government need to either formulate the new laws or amend the existing ones so as fulfill the prerogative of saving and conserving environment from degradation.
One of the major legislation governing with mining and minerals is ‘the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957’, (hereinafter, MMDR Act) which is the central legislation in force for regulation of mining operations. The MMDR Act enables ‘all the State Governments to exercise their powers within a uniform national framework’. The state government act as per the provisions of MMDR Act, 1956.
Mining is one of the core activity which has direct relationship with land, earth. The substantial part of earth is engaged in mining of which, a major portion is in forest. The extraction of minerals from the land causes imbalance, which in turn leads to environmental degradation. Mineral production is often not in consonance with the environment which ordinarily has adverse effects on environment. Mining has caused several environmental, health and safety related problems which needs to be curtailed at all costs.
One of the best example of environmental degradation is by ‘Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL) in Western Ghats mountain ranges in Karnataka, Southern India. The maneuver of KIOCL have caused massive destruction in hills, have polluted groundwater to a great extent and have affected Kudremukh National Park’.
There had been seven major disasters, out of which latest was of 2001, wherein ‘thirty miners lost their lives in an accident of Bagdigi mines in Eastern India, Bihar’. Also, one of major challenge which the mining industry is facing is due to the sites which are no linger in use. There are almost ‘500 abandoned sites covering almost 1800 hectare area’.
Thus, Mining industry had a devastating impact on the environment and has greatly lead to environmental degradation, which is one of growing issue of concern.
The MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 though promotes optimal utilization of India’s mineral resources for its industrial growth and aims at using scientific exploration and sustainable mining practices, but has not worked in accordance to its policies. Though it lays a comprehensive framework for ensuring transparent operation of mining industries and provides for many such provisions which direct towards the development of industry but it has provided many such policies which might prove to be detrimental to the interest of mining industries in long run. The ordinance has provided for boasting growth in mining sector in short-term, which has serious underlying issues that are critical for long-term development.
The environmental and social issues in current legislation have not been addressed properly, however these two, are the major issues of growing concern which not only require immediate formulation of environment policies (in reference to mining industry) but also effective implementation of the same. The is an urgent need of new law for mining industries which better serve the object with which such law is formulated. The Act must be framed in way which not only aids mining mechanism but also ensure sustainable mining to cater the needs of people, environment and economy.
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Ordinance, 2015 (Policy Brief), Centre for Science and Environment, (2015). Retrieved on March 7, 2016 from http://www.cseindia.org/userfiles/Mining_in_India.pdf.
 Mehta, Pradeep S., (2002), ‘The Indian Mining Sector: Effects on Environment & FDI Inflows’, CCNM Global Forum on International Investment, Retrieved on March 7, 2016 from http://www.oecd.org/env/1830307.pdf.