Iron Ore and Magnesite Mining in Karnataka and Goa: The losers at the end of the greed chain

As you move north from Bangalore (India), the landscape changes – vast areas of reddish soil dotted with plenty of trees, agricultural lands, and low hillocks now and then and…lots of forest cover. This is the Tumkur district and used to be full of nondescript towns and people leading a simple life.

Tumkur is also home to Iron ore.

Geologically speaking Tumkur is made up of rocks of Archaean Complex (Granitic Gneisses, and Schists) with some Deccan trappean and intertrappean formations.

Haematite is the most prominent iron ore in this area. The iron ore occurs within banded iron ore formations in massive, laminated, friable form.

The Cauvery and  Tungabhadra make the land fertile enough.

Iron ore is a gift of nature that brings in revenue and helps in technological advancement. However, in the name of mining, there has been exploitation. This has two aspects: 1. the country has been denied money from its own resources with some individuals resorting to fraud and 2. the environment has been severely affected as all norms have been flouted.

The mining scam as it has been called by the media has rocked the country. Iron ore mining was run by authorized mines and everything was fine. Suddenly after 2000, China was ready to pay for iron ore to meet its infrastructure needs. In India mining licenses meanwhile had been issued to private companies in keeping with the opening up of the economy. Some mine owners started mining and exporting a lot of Iron ore. They provided false data about the iron ore mines and the money actually they got. They bribed the right people to help their cause. This resulted in loss for the government, honest stakeholders, and people.

However, the people involved in illegal mining ranged from the top brass to the simple farmer. With the boom in mining, people started to sell their agricultural lands to mining companies. The companies would easily get a mining license and convert the agricultural land to a mining one. This dealt a blow the environment too.  Account books were cooked and mine reports had false data.

Many sold everything they had to invest in the so-called mining lands. Many millionaires were made. The money was never accounted for. Some waited too long to sell their lands and are desperate now – the losers at the end of the greed chain.

Elsewhere – to the northwest, the scenery is spectacular. The story is not. As the Arabian sea beckons, the “smell” of magnesite too seems to add to the salty air. This is the border between Goa and Karnataka. The entire karwar-shimoga belt is lovely. Here too there are mines of Iron ore and Magnesite. This area too has suffered a similar fate. I will point you to an article link in The Hindu, one of India’s leading newspapers: http://www.thehindu.com/arts/magazine/article2540038.ece

In photo: agricultural lands in Tumkur that a a farmer wants to sell as “mineable” land. Typically many people bought such lands close to mines and prepared false geochemical sheets and tried to sell their lands. Haematite ore is reddish with some “banded” striations while magnesite is black. Samples too may not be from the agricultural land that farmers sell. Samples are not always indication that ore is available in that land.

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