Sustainable Use of Mineral Resources

By Nandkumar Kamat
NATURAL geodynamic processes blessed Goa in bestowing vast mineral reserves. Singhbhum, Bastar, Karnataka and Goa are rich in minerals compared to rest of India. Goa Mineral Ore Exporters’ Association (GMOEA) represents major stakeholders of Goa’s economy in terms of employment and income. Goa needs to look carefully at the old paradigm of mining and move towards the new global paradigm of sustainable mining which would judiciously conserve the non-renewable resources and reduce environmental conflicts. GMOEA would have to aim for sustainable mining for sustainable wealth generation, while keeping communities which matter always in the picture.

No Iron Ore Rejects

There are new issues and challenges to tackle. Global mining industry is switching over to more knowledge-based and eco-friendly operations. The word “iron ore reject dumps” is no more valid. Mining waste in Goa is actually misplaced wealth. Mineral biotechnology is poised to take a giant leap in the coming decade. Global prices of strategic metals like Nickel, Chromium and Cobalt are bound to increase. These were considered as just trace elements in Goa’s laterites and iron ores. A new economic approach is required to value Goa’s mineral resources. Goa would need a Helium resource policy. Helium is found in millions of tonnes of monazite sand spread over 40 kms of beaches in Goa. One metric tonne of such sand after heating to a thousand degrees yields one thousand litres of Helium. Its’ value is Rs 1 lakh. There has not been a single major seminar on earth resources for Goa’s development since September 1981. The 1981 seminar organised by Geological Survey of India (GSI) had produced world-class papers.
GMOEA can now take lead in having its’ second edition. The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), a central-government undertaking has submitted its’ third report on Goa and the second on Goa’s mining industry. Its’ first report published in December 1964, ‘Techno-Economic survey of Goa, Daman and Diu’ was commissioned in June 1962 by the civil administration of newly liberated former Portuguese colonies. Considering the administrative chaos and problems which existed between 1962-64, the survey is still an useful and well researched compendium. The other two reports were commissioned by GMOEA. First report was captioned – Contribution of Iron ore to economic development of Goa and the second one was the recently released ‘A study of contribution Goan Iron ore Mining industry’.
The emphasis in the first report was on econometric computation of social capital formation from mining industry. It was shown to be Rs 250-400 crore per year. The focus of second report was econometric computation of contribution to state income, economy and employment. The focus in this report is financial. No fieldwork has been attempted and the data sets are mostly secondary and tertiary and therefore the input parameters are not very reliable.
Reports Sidelined
Voluminous statistical information on mining industry had been submitted in the monsoon 2010 session of Goa assembly. But this primary source, available free in legislature secretariat, has not been touched. As competitors to Goa’s iron ore, Canadians are more interested in Goa’s mining industry than Republic of South Africa, Australia, Brazil or Ukraine. Canadian mining interests manage to get free economic and social intelligence. Canadian crown corporations such as IDRC which also collaborates and funds NCAER had funded a study in 2001 on impact of mining on health and well-being in 57 villages in the mining belt of Goa. So it is inexplicable how NCAER missed IDRC’s patronising studies. The Canadian sponsorship on studies of Goa’s mining sector has been paying rich dividends as India is slowly losing to competitors in Chinese iron ore market.
According to China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) figures in 2009-10, exports of iron ore from India grew by 18 per cent. Australian and Brazilian exports grew by 42.9 per cent and 41.5 per cent, respectively. South Africa, Canada and the Ukraine substantially raised their iron export to China at India’s cost. While smartly underplaying Canada’s own social and environmental problems of mining, IDRC studies had offered some free advice to Goa’s mining industry. This is a new trend now in geopolitics and geoeconomics of mineral commodities. Global and transnational interests have become more important then India’s national interests. It was also surprising to notice that the NCAER, a government undertaking had to purchase data on iron ore exports from India sourced from freely available parliamentary proceedings (Table 2.5, page 18) from Indiastat a private data managing company which sells public statistical datasets for a fee.

NCAER has not looked at the big picture-especially the negative externalities created by illegal mining operations and simple parameters like the costs to restore the polluted water-bodies.
Toxicity in Mandovi and Zuari
Analytical reports from NIO and Goa University have clearly pointed the increasing sediment load and heavy metal toxicity in Mandovi and Zuari rivers. There are sound environmental management solutions for such externalities which should have been mentioned in the report. We wish to know from NCAER the contrast between positive economic and social multiplier effects and negative environmental multiplier effects. A forest is not just a collection of trees with some economic value. Goa’s forests have 5000 species other than the trees. How valuation of this biodiversity has been done? A major drawback of the report is gross miscalculation of the value of 17 globally recognised ecosystem services from forests. MOEF officers, Maudagal and Kakkar (The Price of forests, CSE, 1992) had estimated value of a 50-year-old tree weighing 50 MT at Rs 16 lakh. NCAER could have given a detail analysis of economics of reutilisation of mining ‘rejects’ and the costs and benefits of closure or backfilling of used mines. Many afforestation programmes on mines have been successful. The water in used mining pits is also an economic resource. NCAER is aware of technology developed by BARC to treat such water and supply to villages in mining areas facing water shortages. But emphasis only on econometrics in the report missed such issues. Only sustainable and holistic approach to use mineral resources of Goa would improve the present scenario.


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