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Social investment by mining companies dates back to pre DMF era

New Delhi: The legacy in mining companies is still surviving no matter how much social and economic development mining companies in India bring. Mining is perhaps one of the few sectors that has played significant role in developing infrastructure in rural and tribal belt in India, by virtue of finding most of the minerals in deep rural and tribal areas. To obtain licence to operate from the people of region, mining companies have invested significantly to improve the lives of rural poor and build sustainable infrastructure in villages.

They have built schools, hospitals, community centres, water and sanitation projects, skill training institutes, green-houses, and have invested significantly in social & economic empowerment of rural women, nutrition for deprived children, education, health camps, afforestation, agriculture development, environment protection, utilization of waste, development of green belt and many other such projects that have improved quality of life of the rural poor. Not just that, few mining companies are also investing in national large-scale projects which may not fall under the category of “near mining areas.” In the last 10 years, there has been a revolution of technology in the Indian mining sector.

Induction of global technology by Indian miners has drastically brought down levels of pollution and has scientifically developed value addition from waste generated. Mining companies have developed green belts on dumps using geo-coir method. Rainwater is harvested and soil erosion is being arrested by constructing check-dams. To supress dust, one of the major causes of pollution, even the small mining companies have installed water sprinkling system in mines which keeps the dust under control.

Most of the mining companies prefer engaging with local youth from nearby villages for skilled and unskilled jobs. Training institutes have been set-up by mining companies to train rural youth for skill-based jobs.

There has been sudden increase in the unrest in the community in the last 5 years. By amending MMDR Act in 2015, government constituted District Mineral Foundation (DMF) that makes mining companies to mandatorilycontribute in the fund to be spent for the welfare of the community residing near mining areas. But it is also true that not even 30% of that mammoth Rs 32,550 crore funds collected so far (September 2019) have been spent. Out of 1,35,472 welfare projects sanctioned by the government, only 52,342 have been completed and about 7100 have been scrapped. The miners have paid a substantial amount in DMF for the welfare of the community and since 70% of these funds remains unutilized, miners are also paying the price of non-utilization of these funds by the government.

Commenting on the pre-amended MMDR Act regime, R K  Sharma, Secretary General of Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), an apex body of mining companies in India, says, “does this mean there was no development work being done by mining companies in the near mining areas prior to amendment in MMDR in 2015. This would not be factually correct. From decades mining companies have taken care of the community residing near mining area and have built sustainable infrastructure in villages.”

Sharma says, “the fact is that even today most of the funds in DMF remain unutilized, increasing the difficulties of mining companies towards getting consent to operate. The village community does not understand contribution of the mining companies in DMF. They have been seeing mining companies helping develop the infrastructure in their villages and creating employment for the rural youth. Their immediate expectation is from mining companies.” Globally, nations have progressed by gainfully utilizing what is above the earth, which is agriculture, and what is below the earth, which is mineral resources. Both have equal importance. One feeds the nation and the later builds infrastructure.

Sharma says, “when both, agriculture and mineral resources are foundation of social and economic development of a nation, how can one be less important and the other be more”.

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