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Jharkhand Mines Collapse Due To Illegal Mining

Jharkhand Mines Collapse Due To Illegal Mining

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  • GS 3 || Environment || Governance: India || Major Industries

Why in the news?

  • At least 12 persons were killed while many others are lying trapped at three different illegal mining sites due to the collapse during illegal mining in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad district.
  • The coal sector is critical to the Indian economy’s major industries, such as iron and steel, aluminum, cement, and so on but the illegal coal business still remains a huge concern for India.

Coal Mining in India 

  • Opencast mining- Also called surface mining, is used when the coal is found deposited close to the surface. The coal is mined from an open pit instead of a tunnel. The pit is expanded until the deposits are exhausted.
  • Rat-hole mining– This is a banned practice of underground mining where small holes are created for the miners to extract the coal. This is illegally practiced in the northeast region especially as a community or familial practice.
  • Room and Pillar coal mining– in this method, the coal is mined from a horizontal plane and an array of rooms and pillars.
  • Contour mining-This is used in a hilly region with rolling/ steep terrain. The overburden is removed along the contours of the hill before mining the coal.
  • Mountaintop mining-the coal is mined after the mountaintop is removed to reveal the seam. Valley fills are used for storing the removed overburden in case of a limited disposal alternative.
  • Strip mining-The earth above the coal seam is called overburden. The overburden is removed in form of strips and deposited elsewhere before mining the coal underneath. It’s a type of surface mining.

Status of coal mining in India

  • India is 2nd Largest producer- After China, India is the world’s second-largest coal production, Yet its second-largest importer of coal.
  • Energy reliant– The coal industry is extremely reliant on the energy sector. India generates twice the amount of energy from coal as it does from oil.
    • The coal industry contributes 10% of the Industrial Production Index (IIP).
    • India is one of the world’s largest consumers of energy. Demand is predicted to more than double by 2040.
    • Despite the push for renewable energy, the coal sector provides over 72 percent of the country’s electricity. Coal is projected to have a significant role in energy generation.
  • High imports- India is highly dependent on imports for high-quality coal- especially for the steel industry.

Issues related to coal mining 

  • Environmental and health concerns– It is also not a clean fuel and contributes to climate change.
    • Mining is a hazardous industry. Wall failure, roof collapse, gas poisoning, explosions, outbursts, lung diseases such as black lung disease, silicosis, and other hazards exist in coal mines, posing a threat to miners and nearby populations.
    • Severely affects the atmosphere through coal particulate pollution.
    • Solid wastes from the coal mines affect the environment. Bottom ash,  etc. affect the air and the water. Heavy metal-containing sludge is also a source of pollution.  
      • Damodar river has been severely polluted by coal mining.
  • Coal is a non-renewable resource and its continued use is not sustainable.
  • Economic issues
  • Coal Mafias-  In coal-dependent communities, the coal mafia has spawned a parallel economy. This has resulted in negative consequences such as the black marketing for coal, the diversion of high-quality coal, and the expropriation of government lands, among others.
  • Higher grades of coal have a high reliance on imports. It puts a strain on the foreign exchange reserve as well as the fiscal numbers.
  • The coal business is heavily reliant on important industries like steel and power. Supply disruptions have a considerable influence on the productivity of these industries, resulting in a domino effect. For example, the 2018 power crisis in Tamil Nadu was caused by a coal supply deficit.
  • The coal industry has a low productivity rate. A major factor is the employment of non-scientific mining methods.
  • The industry has a high cost of operation and maintenance.
  • Lack of transparency- The allocation of coal blocks is subject to arbitrary decisions, a lack of transparency, and a lack of merit consideration.
  • There is a lack of technological advancement and adoption.
  • Low foreign investment and a strong reliance on state-owned banks for debt financing.

Social Issues 

  • Huge displacement- Large-scale displacement of local people leads to grievances and improper rehabilitation measures, thereby, leading to people’s alienation and developing distrust over the government machinery.
    • It has led to the rise in Left-wing extremism in resource-rich states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
  • Miners’ lives are additionally endangered by the primitive methods used and the lack of suitable safety equipment and standards. Mine-related accidents, for example, occurred at the Ksan coal mine in Meghalaya’s Jaintia Hills in 2018 and Chasnala near Dhanbad in 1975.
  • Child Labor and Human Trafficking- Children make up the majority of the workers in ‘rat-hole’ mining. They are well suited for this duty due to their compact anatomy, which allows them to fit into small mine tunnels. Apart from dealing with immigrants from several states, rat-hole mining has increased child trafficking.
  • Mine-related deaths, poor rehabilitation, and developmental steps, among other things, have all resulted in human rights violations. Massive local protests against mining have taken place in Odisha’s Niyamgiri Hills, POSCO in Odisha, and a Sterlite protest in T.N.

Some initiatives taken by the government 

  • Unlocking Transparency through Third-Party Assessment of Mined Coal (UTTAM application) – The Ministry of Coal introduced it in 2018. It’s an application for enhancing coal quality monitoring transparency and efficiency.
  • Coal Mitra portal- The coal ministry launched the Coal Mitra Portal to promote the use of domestic coal for electricity generation. It enables cost-cutting transparent coal exchange between the private and public sectors.
  • SHAKTI (Scheme to Harness and Allocate Koyla Transparency in India) is a scheme to harness and allocate Koyla transparency in India. It’s a coal linkage scheme that uses discoms to connect coal producers with power producers. Reduced import dependence, lower consumer power costs, and a more coordinated power supply are just a few of the benefits.
  • National Mineral Policy(NMP) was approved in 2019, which emphasizes themes such as sustainable mining, boosting exploration, encouraging the use of state-of-the-art technology, and skill development.
  • The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 was passed by the cabinet – By liberalizing standards and laws, is projected to democratize the sector. This will be accomplished by revising the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act of 2015 as well as the MMDRA of 1957.
  • Online Coal Clearance System-Developed by the coal ministry to enable easier submission and clearance of applications to the ministry.
  • CAMS- Coal Allocation Monitoring System. It is to monitor the allocation process and improve transparency.
  • 100% FDI- In 2019, Government has allowed 100% foreign direct investment in the coal sector.

Way forward

  • Encouraging Mining Sector Reforms- Mining sector reforms will help to drive growth in other industries that rely on it.
    • The increase in mining production will benefit a variety of metal and associated sectors. This will benefit a variety of businesses, including the automobile industry.
    • In June  2020, the center launched the auction of 41 coal blocks in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra for commercial mining- a part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign.
  • Check on the imports– Despite its enormous potential, India imports a significant amount of raw materials. Mining is a crucial component to consider in order to achieve the goal of a self-sufficient India.
    • Many sectors, such as steel and copper, already import a significant amount of raw materials and intermediates.
  • Promote Exports and generating Employment- Minerals are a bulky cargo, and India’s infrastructure in terms of railway racks, port capabilities, and shipping facilities must be improved if it is to become a mineral exporter.
    • India should also concentrate on job creation. The sector has a lot of potential for employment development at the local level, which can help cities avoid becoming overloaded by migration.
  • EIA  and SIA- Before assigning the projects, proper environmental impact assessments (EIA) and social impact assessments (SIA) must be completed.
  • Respecting tribal laws and proper rehabilitation- The displaced population must be properly rehabilitated, and tribal rights must be respected in accordance with the law.
    • Efforts should be made to include the local population in the process.
  • Ensure transparency in block allocations and rule-based order should be established.
  • Use of technology for a better way of mineral exploration and surveillance systems.

Conclusion

  • Coal sector is still a major determinant of the country’s economic health despite the adverse impact it has on its environmental health. This calls for efforts to simultaneously wean the economy away from it towards renewables while also making coal productivity more efficient.
  • A boost to the coal industry could stymie efforts to transition to renewable energy.
  • India is increasing its coal use at a time when other countries are phasing it out. Germany has set a goal of eliminating coal use by In 2020, Spain had shut down half of its coal-fired thermal power facilities. It had previously shut down all of its coal mines. By 2030, Japan plans to close 100 low-efficiency coal-fired power facilities. Even the USA has plans to shut down several of its coal plants.

Mains model Question

  • Coal continues to be one of India’s most important energy resources and the primary fuel for power generation. Examine the various challenges of commercial coal mining in India. Suggest some sustainable alternatives to coal-based fuel.

References