iron ore mining industry is one of the oldest industries in this civilized world. Its contribution to the growth of nations and economic prosperity worldwide is immense. However, their exploration, exploitation and associated activities directly infringe upon and affect the other natural resources like land, water, air, flora and fauna which are to be conserved and optimally utilized in a sustainable manner. The single most important factor that is responsible for environmental degradation due to iron ore mining is inadequate landscape management during operation stage and improper rehabilitation during and after the mining.
The iron ore demand is expected to be increased at a greater phase and this will lead to opening up of new mines and expansion of existing mines as discussed in Section 2.0 of this report. It is, therefore, necessary that the environmental concerns be integrated right from the beginning. To achieve this, the industry has to have a framework of policies that are environmental friendly. The concern for environmental issues is well reflected in the new National Mineral Policy 1993 (non fuel and non atomic minerals) as reproduced below:
“The New National Mineral Policy 1993 prohibits mining operations in identified ecologically rich areas and strip mining in forest areas should as far as possible be avoided. The latter could be permitted only when accompanied by a comprehensive time bound reclamation programme.
It states further that no mining lease would be granted to any party, private or public, without a proper mining plan including the environmental management plan approved and enforced by statutory authorities. The environmental management plan should have adequate measures for minimizing the environmental damage, restoration of mined areas and for planning of trees in accordance with the prescribed norms. As far as possible, reclamation and afforestation will proceed concurrently with mineral extraction. Efforts should also be made to convert old mining sites into forests and other forms of land use.”
Realizing the importance of the impacts of iron ore mining on environment, most of the big iron ore mining companies have established a systematic organisation structure, solely to look after environmental impacts and issues, both at their corporate level and mines. Now a number of Indian Iron Ore mining companies have implemented Environment Management Systems (EMS) linked to ISO-14001 and certified. For example Noamundi of TISCO, all the mines of M/s Sesa Goa in Goa, and Dalli, Kiriburu, Meghahatuburu & Bolani Iron Ore mines of SAIL, few mines in NMDC, KIOCL and a number of mining companies have already been certified.
The details about the existing environmental management practices of some of the selected mines covered under “In-depth” study in the four different zones have already been discussed in the Interim Report submitted during December, 2001. But while discussing the environmental impacts of Indian iron ore mines in the following sections of this chapter, a brief of the existing environment management practices has also been discussed, at present.