Over 50 years, we have not only extracted and excavated over 1000 million tonnes of iron ore, but also hundreds of tonnes of manganese and over 6000 tonnes of mining rejects lying as dumps and the ore ‘over burden’ scattered across fertile agricultural fields, lush green forest cover, settlement zones, plateaus and across waterways, dams, canals and private grazing grounds.
In the last millennium, we were able to market iron ore with 58 per cent iron content. Any stack of iron ore around 55 per cent iron was mixed with high grade stacks with 62 per cent iron content to meet the strict Japanese buyers requirements which never went below 58 per cent.
Very often, unscrupulous mine owners resorted to the dubious ‘iron ore beneficiation process’. Mineowners used ground water as well as water made available to them in tankers either by government or by private players; and sued large ponds, lakes to flush out the non ferrous wastes from 55 per cent branded iron deposits so as to upgrade it to 58 per cent to 62 per cent as higher the iron content, the better was the price.
Thus, unscrupulous mining lobby, cruel heartedly dumped ores below 55 per cent Fe indiscriminated by bulldozing or bullying farmers to transform agricultural fields into dumpyards. If the farmer refused to yield dirty toxic water from the beneficiation plants, was purposefully released into fertile rice fields across Bicholim, Ponda, Sattari and Sanguem talukas. The toxic mining rejects rendered the fields unfit for cultivation, but appropriate to dump mining rejects called dumps.
In European countries and USA, the overburden and the dumps are backfilled, amended with fertile soil reclaimed scientifically, restored judiciously and a novel ecosystem is generated.
I worked with scientific colleagues in UK on coal dumps and overburdens and through backfilling of pits, we have generated fields of wheat, barley, corn, other ecosystem generated were grazing land and pasture land for cattle, meadows, parks and gardens for the society and even wild life sanctuaries, habitat for birds and a botanical garden adorns the once ugly coal mining spot. In low lying areas, lakes and aquaculture ponds are developed. Thus, restoration and rehabilitation is an integral part of mining policy and mineral extraction in European countries and USA.
In Goa, after mineral extraction pits are left as scars and wounds on mother earth, our fertile land lusts for crop cultivation and horticulture. Not a single backfilling process is undertaken in Goa, thus no land for cultivation, no water for drinking, no graze land for cattle. What remains is butchered red hills, muddy brown water with high manganese and iron toxicity, growth in respiratory diseases and TB and poor quality of life for villagers in the mining belt.
In the 1980s, Goa exported 15 million tonnes at the rate of 13 dollars per tonnes to the Japanese and the ore was of very high grade. Anything less than 58 per cent Fe was refused and left to destroy and destruct our fields, water bodies like lakes and silt our rivers during monsoon rains. In 2003, China geared up to plan for the 2008 Olympic games. Thus they set up themselves to buy iron ore from Goa.
To cater to the Olympic infrastructural needs, China’s appetite and interest for Goan iron ore grew. China not only accepted our high grade iron for over 180 to 220 US dollars, but even dumps with less than 58 per cent Fe lying as dumps were sought after. Unlike stupid Goans, the Chinese realize the value of natural assets. They realize the value of the dollar could depreciate. The paper money is as valuable as the government, who print these dollars.
The Chinese realized that it is the superpower of the future and thus, to be a super power, it is imperative to store natural resources as mineral wealth and not dollars in paper notes as it could be devalued or could lead to appreciation of the Chinese Yuan which would make Chinese goods expensive. So the Chinese business community used the services of the foolish Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Goa to ease out their US dollars, to purchase the low grade Goan Iorn ores, which in reality are rich in precious metals and rare earths. The Chinese think of their future generations and are keeping Goan iron ores as the wealth for the generations to come. The value of iron ore would only continue to rise as is the case of real estate in Goa of today. The Government of Goa appears apparently to have fallen prey to the evil designs of the greedy mine owners and the cheap and foolish Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, rich in commission agents out to sell mother Goa for a song. “China reaps wile Goa is bestowed with blood red holes”.
We must understand and evaluate the vegetation lying on the ‘mining dumps’, the social costs due to non-restoration and assess the amount of toxic manganiferous clay which would have been left by these greedy mineowners after these rejects are exported, which when left exposed, would lead to kidney infections and physiological aberration in the human body.
Manohar Parrikar, our Chief Minister must not be left misinformed by the mining lobby who have killed the goose which laid the golden egg for Goans. As such, today, the people in the mining belt are left parched with no water during summer and monsoon fury and flooded homes during the rainy season.
The people in the mining belt were robbed of their agriculture in the pre 2000 era. Post 2002, the shrewd mining lobby have involved these poor hapless villagers into mining by involving them in ore transport business and involving them into purchase of trucks and mining machinery. Unless the Chief Minister studies and understand the cruel game of exploitation and involvement of poor villagers into the mining trade by the wicked mining lobby, mother Goa would continue to be bled dry, transforming the once beautiful Goa into a bloody scourge, a curse for the future generations of Goa