TODAY -

Mining tussles in Manipur

Jajo Themson *



Introduction: Mining, considered one of the major economic sources of India, has long been associated with numerous controversies. And still it is a great initiative of economic activity which has significant contributions to the Indian economy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution of the Mining sector varies from 2.2% to 2.5% but going by the GDP of the total industrial sector, it contributes around 10% to 11%. Even mining in the small scale contributes 6% to the entire cost of mineral production. It's said that Indian mining provides job opportunities to about 7 lakhs individuals.

However, the Mining Industry is unscrupulous on dimensional human right violations and environmental pollutions. Mining activities are usually associated with multiple discords being the principal targets of the multi-national Corporate and companies are profiteering and plundering of resources with no serious concern for negative impacts of loss and damages cause to land, forest, rivers and communities rights over their standing assets.

Several tussles are commonly involved in this sector where lack of proper consultation, undermining the rights of spontaneous and independent decision of indigenous land and resource owners, absence of transparency & accountability, lack of detail impacts assessments and deadlock over constitutional framework. The industry also faced severe jolts of high profile mining scandals.

Besides this, explosion of methane gas, cold dust, carbon monoxide poisoning, dead blow to eco-system and Environment like pollution of river water, ponds and surrounding, deforestation affecting to human and animal habitation, social displacement due to wide area coverage or for safety on contamination of water and poisoning of nearby trees and threat of radiation and dimensional human rights violation on militarization are common issues related to mining projects.

Numerous multinational companies are now on the race to mining minerals across India's North East region. Recently, Korean companies like South Korean's company, Korea Gas Corp (KOGAS), the world's second-biggest Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) importer from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nicobar Island, is keen to explore opportunities in Nagaland and ink agreement for possible investment on limestone and also develop LNG export unit in the state as transit point for export to other ASEAN countries, this was informed through CMO Media Cell on The Sunday.

Minerals reserve of Manipur: Manipur is embarking on extensive mining processes. According to the Directorate of Industries Govt, of Manipur, the probable Chromites reserve in Manipur is about 5,45,500 tones out of which 4,51,000 tones are found in Ukhrul and 94,500 tones in Chandel district. Limestone deposits are located in the ophiolite melange and oceanic pelagic sediments in Ukhrul and Chandel District.

Gross limestone reserve of Manipur is estimated to about 1,33,03,000 tones out of which 1,31,45,000 tones are found in Ukhrul and 1,58,000 tones in Chandel district. Reserves of Nickel, copper, Sulphides, Serpentinites, Malachite, Azurite and Magnetite are also discovered. Hydro-carbon reserves of more than 40 oil and gas fields are found in the Western part of Manipur especially Tamenglong district, Imphal West and Churachandpur districts and Kaolin (China Clay) are also widely found in Manipur as per the report of Geological survey of India (GSI).

Mining in Manipur: History of mining in Manipur can be traced back to the early part of 1960's. As per the report of Directorate of Industries Govt, of Manipur 2013, no minerals have been extracted in Manipur except some minor minerals. According to finding reports from case studies, extraction of Cement and chromite are the major mining activities carried out in some hill districts so far.

Both public and private corporate bodies are involved in the mining processes in Manipur. GSI, Orissa Industries Limited, Satyam Company, Facor Alloys, Jubilant Energy, Asian Oilfield, Oil India Limited etc. are the major companies that engaged in exploration and testing of minerals in Manipur.

Ukhrul district has witnessed increased effort to mine minerals. As per information obtained, surface chromite located at Phangrei and 153 truck-loads of Shingcha were taken away by Orissa Industries Company in 1980's and early 1990's. First batch of extraction of limestone was done at Hungdung village. Testing and drilling of limestone were successively carried out at Mailiang and Phungyar villages in 1980's.

It was also reported that FACOR Alloys is conducting chromite test at Lunghar village in the recent time. Second phase of limestone mining is underway at Hundung. There have been reports that Directorate of Industries, GOM has inked several contracts with some Mining companies to extract minerals at Kwatha in Tengnaupal district.

Policy challenges on minerals extraction in India: It is worth understanding about the legal framework that binds the policies of minerals mining in India. She has her own laws regarding management of mining sector even though she is not a signatory in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The policy level guidelines for Mineral Sector are given by the National Mineral Policy of2008. Mining operations are regulated under the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulations (MMDR) Act of 1957.

Several amendments have been made. Each of (hem cordoned the mandatory Free and Prior informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous liand and resource owners and Forest & Environment Clearances coupled with detail impacts assessment which are mandatory as the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, Forest Protection Act, 1986 and Forest Right Act, 2006 required. This Act bears the same principle of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 that undermines the rights of the tribal customary land and resource ownership.

Contestation between Legal judgment & Mining laws:

Section 24A (2) of the MMDRA, 1957, stipulated the tribal or indigenous peoples as the occupiers of surface of the land in the context of social, cultural, religious, economic, tradition and usufructs of tribal forested land. The constitution of India under SI. No. 54 of the Central list in the Vllth Scheduled, circumscribes the states on legislation but will be bound by the Central legislation. Overall power of controlling and decision making for major minerals are vested with the Central govt. Rules 15 of the MMDR Act, 1957 provides Power to the state Govt, to make rules in respect of minor mineral only.

Whereas, in recent development, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, in its Order dated 16th July 2013 has stated that, "Ownership of minerals should be vested with the owner of the land and not with state govt." Moreover, as per provision of V & Vlth Scheduled of the Indian constitution, Autonomous District Council (ADC) has the absolute right to decide in this regard.

It is worth mentioning the SC judgment on Samatha Bauxite Mining case, 1997, which clearly recognized the rights of the tribal on land stating non-transferable to non-tribal and so cannot be leased or handed over for mining. In another relevant case, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) halted the Odisha Bauxite Mining project based on forest rights of the Scheduled Tribe & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers in the line of socio-cultural and religious perspective. In spite of the ruling of the SC 2013, the MMDRA 2015 amendment Bill was passed. Almost all the points of amendment made, enhanced the controlling attorney of the Central Govt, on mining.

On the other vein, extraction of petroleum and oil are regulated by the Oilfields Regulatory and Development Act, 1948, Oil Industry Development Act, 1974, Petroleum Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of right of User in land) Act, 1962 and Petroleum and Natural Gas Rule, 1959 that gave exclusive power of ownership of oil and gas resources to Central Govt. Accordingly, the Central Govt, has to permit the Oil onshore mining license and deciding upon royalty and surface reint rates to the state Govt.

Here, the required Environment Clearance process sidelined 'the impacts on culture, health and economy where actually the FCA, 1980 required it. The provisions under FRA, 2006 will be determined by Forest Department and Union Ministry of Environment & Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) that completely deprived the traditional forest rights of the indigenous people.

Public responses to Mining in Manipur: There have been instances of public opposition to the mineral mining works in Manipur. There were times when local people resistance and opposition from the apex students and civil societies' organizations like Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong (TKS) and Tangkhul Naga Long (TNL) regarding chromite test using drilling machine at Lunghar village in Ukhrul district this year.

So far, the villagers of Lunghar neither plan nor willing to allow the companies extract chromite from the village except NOC given to FACOR Alloys for testing minerals. It is rightful the community people reacts to mining projects as the original Mining policies and subsequent amendments of the MMDRA, 1957 only aimed to promote Corporates and Central Govt, power to expropriate mineral resources whereas, they appeared to be severe threats to the rights of the traditional land and resource owners.

The first incidents of oil exploration were done in 2012 in Churachandpur and Tamenglong district. Oil drilling in Tamenglong, Jiri and Imphal West by the Indian Oil Limited and Asian Oilfield in the recent months were halted by the indigenous communities. Series of public protest movement have been carried out against oil exploration in Manipur especially opposed the aggressive actions of the Oil companies that undermined the rights of the indigenous land and resource owners.

It is worth mentioning the indigenous peoples of Meghalaya led by Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council, opposed the exploration and mining of Uranium in Meghalaya due to lack of FPIC, accountability and detail impacts assessments.

Conclusion: People of Manipur are proud of being the owner of rich reserves of mineral resources even though it is a small state situated in the North-Eastern comer of India. And it is true to assert the land and resources belong to indigenous community people. Our access to development especially extraction of minerals should be based on our aspiration, our will and therefore, it is the indigenous peoples right to take our own spontaneous self-determined and independent decision to explore, exploit and manage them for our benefit in a sustainable manner, that serves the interest and rights of communities without inflicting massive environment and social impacts.

Thus, it is envisaged that empowering the corporate for free hand extraction of mineral resources under its aggressive laws and policies will only make us a sacrificial lamb at the end.

The ensuing plan of extracting mineral resources of Directorate of Industries, Govt, of Manipur in collaboration with the corporate or companies, should recognize and implement FPIC of the concerned land owners, transparency and accountability, take up necessary steps to safeguard the rights of the indigenous communities over their land and resources and carry out detail impacts assessment. The full-fledged implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 would be a fundamental step to promote sustainable use of our land and resources, based on human rights and promotion of environment integrity.


* Jajo Themson wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at thmsontezonge(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on November 30, 2017.



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