Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chiria Iron Ore Mines of SAIL in Jharkhand Gets Forest Clearance

Chiria iron ore mines of SAIL in the Saranda forest in Paschimi Singhbhum district of Jharkhand gets forest clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests today. The approval is subjected to the usual 13 specific conditions governing forest clearance like those relating to compensatory afforestation and Net Present Value. Forest clearances had been given to SAIL earlier in July 1998 and October 1998 for two leases in Chiria itself.
As per the conditions, only mining and primary and secondary crushing be allowed in the forest area. Processing, beneficiation, blending, stockpiling, railway sidings, infrastructure and all township facilities will be 15km away in non-forest land. Only conveyor systems will be used for transportation of ore. A cluster management approach will be adopted for mining-related activities to avoid excessive fragmentation. Thus, the diverted area will be broken up in phases. No disturbance to the forest areas above their water collection points. Other conditions include:
 Forest roads will not be used by SAIL during night time.

SAIL will position a wildlife management team at Chiria from the start of operations to monitor impacts and take remedial measures as the project proceeds.

Over the next 20 years 0nly 25% of the total forest area being diverted (equivalent to around 595 hectares) will be broken up.
SAIL will make a contribution of Rs 20 crore over the next five years for programmes relating to wildlife-related and biodiversity-related programmes in the region with particular focus on the Sarinda Forest Division.
In keeping with the guidelines issued by the Department of Public Enterprises, SAIL will earmark at least 2% of net profits for CSR activities (as distinct from wildlife and biodiversity management programmes). The CSR will include vocational and skill-development programmes for local youth to begin as the mining activities commence. Employment of local tribal youth will be maximised in a transparent manner.
Proper mitigative measures to minimise soil erosion and choking of streams will be undertaken. 
There will be zero discharge into the Koena River and steps will be taken to ensure that the river does not get polluted. This will be subject to regular field reviews by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The river ecology is critical to the health of the forest.

The entire mine lease covering 2376 hectares will remain with SAIL as at present. Five-year plans should be prepared for land-use and the fellings will be regulated accordingly.

SAIL will support the preparation of a comprehensive wildlife and biodiversity management plan by the Wildlife Institute of India, the Wildlife Trust of India and the WWF. This study will also identify areas that should be kept inviolate in the Saranda forest. This study should be commissioned immediately.

Given that in recent months, it has been permitted mining in ecologically sensitive areas in Duarguiburu as well as in Kiriburu-Meghahatuburu, SAIL should set up a full-fledged forest management team under a full-time Executive Director whose sole responsibility will be forest management.The Chiria mine complex covers about 2376 hectares which is about 3% of the entire Saranda forest area. Of this, around 194 hectares (8%) has already been broken up. SAIL’s proposal was for diversion of a total 595 hectares which is 25% of the total Chiria mine area. The permission is being sought for a period of 20 years. It has two components: (i) renewal of permission to mine in the 194 hectares already broken up; and (ii) permission to divert an additional 401 hectares (17%) for mining. The project already had been accorded environmental clearances earlier.SAIL is a “maharatna” public sector company with a good track record of corporate social responsibility and as such deserving of special treatment even in this era of a certain economic orthodoxy.
Given the ecological sensitivity of the Saranda forest area, the MoE&F will assume direct responsibility and set up a multi-disciplinary expert group (that would include not only ecologists but also anthropologists) to be responsible for this monitoring. The monitoring, evaluation and compliance reports will be made available in the public domain once a quarter. This committee will pay special attention to the concerns relating to the impact of mining on elephant habitats and migratory routes.
The erstwhile privately-owned Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) took control of the Chiria iron ore mine complex in the Saranda forest in Paschimi Singhbhum district of Jharkhand in 1936. IISCO became a fully-owned subsidiary of SAIL in 1978 and final merger took place in 2006 on the premise that the mines would be made available to SAIL since it had been forced to absorb substantial losses on IISCO’s account.
Details are available on Ministry’s website

Source: Print Release

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