Chhattisgarh stops mining in Bailadila hills after protests by tribals
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Tuesday ordered stoppage all work related to iron ore mining in Dantewada’s Bailadila hills after a five-day protest by tribals who claim the shrine of a goddess is located in one the hills and is associated with their faith.
Baghel took the decision after a meeting with a delegation of tribal leaders and Lok Sabha MP from Bastar Deepak Baij of the Congress.
“The CM on Tuesday has instructed to immediately halt the deforestation of affected area and said that proper action will be taken after checking illegal cutting of trees. The CM also ordered an investigation regarding the complaint received against the Gram Sabha which was arranged in the year 2014 for giving approval to the project. The CM has also asked the departments concerned to initiate correspondence with Central government about the issue immediately,” said Taran Prakash Sinha, director public relations , Chhattisgarh government.
An order to this affect has been issued, he said.
Baghel’s decision came five days after the tribals started an indefinite protest under the banner of Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti demanding stoppage of mining related activities in iron-ore deposit no. 13.
Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) had been given the contract as mine developer last year by NCL, a joint venture of National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC). Chhattisgarh was then ruled by the BJP.
The Bailadila iron ore deposit at Kirandul has a 10 million tonne per annum (MTPA) capacity.
Local tribals who revere hill no 13 at Bailadila as the shrine of Pitod devi, wife of nature god Nandraj insist that their faith is associated with the hill.
As part of their indefinite agitation, tribals from some 200 villages of Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur districts, began another protest in front of NMDC’s Kirandul facility on June 7 demanding that NCL should abandon its plan to mine the hill.
“As per the mining plan, over 25,000 trees will have to be chopped off in this area and so far, 10,000 threes have been cut, which will also adversely impact the local environment. We will not allow mining on our sacred hill which is worshiped as our deity, at any cost,” said Mangal Kunjam, a tribal leader participating in the protest.
According to an NMDC spokesperson, the production of iron ore has been stalled in its three mines in Kirandul area due to ongoing agitation while extraction in remaining two mines in the adjacent Bacheli area is unaffected.
“The government has all rights to investigate the allegation and the company will wait for further decision of Chhattisgarh government,” said VS Prabhakar, CEO , NCL.
Adani Enterprises said in a statement that it does not have any presence in Kirandul.
“AEL has not commenced its project yet and will initiate any activity only after all the mandatory requirements are met by the owner NMDC CMDC Limited. As on today, Mining Contractor AEL does not have any presence in Kirandul for mining purposes. It is important to note that NMDC CMDC Limited owns the iron ore resources and AEL will provide support only as an experienced and responsible Mining Contractor, it said.