The Jharkhand government has shut down 12 iron ore mines in West Singhbhum district, a decision expected to impact the country’s steel production in a big way and render several thousand workers jobless.
Among those affected by the directive, issued Wednesday, are Tata Steel, SAIL and Orissa Manganese and Minerals Pvt Ltd. The shutdown was prompted by mines working without renewing their licences. The notices were served Thursday after which all production activity was stopped.
Following a May 15 Supreme Court order, the Centre had through a July 17 notification asked states to clamp down on such mines. Once the 12 mines shut down, there will be only five functional mines in the district.
Jharkhand is the heart of India’s steel industry — the only state with iron ore mines as well as steel plants — and West Singhbum produces 24% of the country’s iron ore. At its peak in the early 2000s, the district had 42 mines producing 100,000 tonnes of ore every day before a steel slump in 2006-07 forced 25 to shut down.
Tata Steel declined comment but SAIL Bokaro spokesperson Sanjay Tiwari said they were left with only a week’s supply of ore.
“Iron ore is the backbone of West Singhbhum’s economy. Almost everyone directly or indirectly earns their livelihood from the mines. The impact could be enormous,” said deputy commissioner Abu Bakr Siddiqui.