Nuances of mining plan in Manipur

Mining companies has been involved in surveys and plans to extract the various minerals, primarily Chromite and limestone from Eastern section of Manipur bordering Myanmar in Ukhrul, Kamjong, Tengnoupal and Chandel Districts. The Government of Manipur developed the Industrial and Investment Policy of Manipur, 2013 to facilitate extractive industries in Manipur, re-notified in 2017. Some objectives of the policy includes to create infrastructure facilities, provide incentives as well as marketing and technical support to industries, to enhance the availability of raw materials, to facilitate optimal utilization of the State’s natural and human resources, to attract investment etc. The Manipur Minor Mineral Policy, 2018 has also been framed in 2018.

Minerals of Manipur: The Geological Survey of India (GSI), Ministry of Mines and Minerals, Government of India conducted systematic geological mapping of Manipur and detected numbers of minerals such as limestone, chromite, nickel, copper, malachite, azurite and magnetite and various platinum group of elements (PGE). The GSI estimates around 20 million metric tonnes of limestone deposits in Hundung, Phungyar and Mailiang villages in Ukhrul district and at Toupokpi, Chakpikarong, Pallel, Nungphura, Nungpal, Sajik Tampak, Haikot in Tengnoupal and Chandel Districts. The Indian Bureau of Mines 2013 report indicated that Manipur has 6.66 MT of chromite resources of ophiolite belt in Manipur. Chromite reserves is in Phangrei, Lunghar, Singcha–Gamnon area of Ukhrul District and in Kwatha, Khudengthabi and Minou-Mangkang etc in Tengnoupal and Chandel areas.

Mining MoUs:
The Indian Bureau of Mines and the Ministry of Mines, India granted mining leases to private companies during 2007-2012 in the ophiolite belt of Ukhrul and Chandel districts of Manipur.  Several MoUs for Chromium and Limestone mining were among the Thirty-Nine (39) MoUs signed during the North East Business Summit held at Imphal, Manipur from 21st till 22nd November 2017. The MoUs between the Government of Manipur (GOM) and mining companies include transfer of land and mining rights in favour of the companies. In 2017, the GOM signed Seven MoUs for mining of chromite and limestone with mining companies including M/s Sarvesh Refractories Pvt. Ltd, Rourkela, M/s Rourkela Minerals Pvt. Ltd, Rourkela, M/s Gulf Natural Resources, Gurgaon, M/s Balassore Alloys Ltd, Odisha etc in 2017. Eight blocks of limestone over an area of 34.37 sq.km and ten blocks of chromite over an area of 38.96 sq.km have been notified for reservation for exploration and mining with companies signing MoUs on 22 November 2017 with GOM.

The GOM also signed four MoUs for limestone mining and to establish cement plant with M/s Super Ores, Guwahati, M/s Gulf Natural Resources, GurgaonandM/s Ramung Enterprises, Imphal in 2018. The Directorate of Trade, Commerce and Industries (DTCI) of the GOM submitted draft Cabinet Memo for giving an area of 47 acre belonging to the erstwhile Hundung Cement Factory, on lease to M/s. Ramung Enterprises, Imphal for setting up of a 400 Tonnes Per Day (TPD) Cement Plant on 18 November 2018. The cabinet decision was taken by GOM on 18 February 2019 to set up of two cement plants in Manipur.

Prospecting license of chromite over an area of 8.75 sq.km at Lunghar, Sihai Khullen, Nungbi, Ukhrul District has been renewed for two years from 6 April 2018 in favor of M/s. Facor Alloys Limited of Andhra Pradesh by the DTCI, Manipur on 8 March 2018.  The company further applied for grant of mining lease for chromite at Lunghar on 14 December 2018. The DTCI, Manipur signed mine development and production agreement and lease with M/s. Sarvesh Refractory Pvt. Ltd for mining at Lunghar village and with M/s. Rourkela Mineral Company Pvt. Ltd at Shingcha-Gamnom on 23 February 2019 to commence chromite mining operations.

The Gulf Natural Resources Private Limited (GNRPL) based in Gurgaon signed a deed of agreement for mining of chromite with the Village Authority of Kwatha Village on 5th October 2016, under which the village was  conditioned to hand over the surface right of the chromite bearing Ophiolite belt in the village. The Rourkela Minerals Company Private Limited (ROMCO) has signed an agreement with the Government of Manipur on 23 February 2019 for a mining lease for Twenty (20) years over an area of 85.0 hectares in Shingcha- Gamnom village in Ukhrul district. ROMCO received approval of Ministry of Mines and Minerals in 2017 without receiving Environmental Clearance (EC). The DTCI, Manipur granted the mining lease in August 2018.

M/s Sarvesh Refractory Private Limited (SRL) has been contracted by GOM to mine Chromite from Lunghar and Sirohi Villages of Ukhrul District. The mining lease area is 132.781 hectares in Shirohi-Lunghar Village with targeted production capacity of 10531 tons per annum and is under process to seek environment clearance from the MOEFCC for mining of Chromium. The GOM has leased out the limestone quarry to one Guwahati-based M/S Super Ores and Mines Private Limited for a period of 20 years. The DTCI, Manipur conceded an area of 47 acre belonging to Hundung Cement Factory for lease to M/s. Ramung Enterprises, Imphal to set up a 400 TPD Cement Plant on 18 November 2018.
Mailiang Village in Kamjong District, was targeted for Limestone mining and for establishment of a factory at Mailiang Village in Kamjong District, Manipur The Satyam Company and the Government of Manipur conducted testing and survey work for Limestone deposit with fresh plans to establish mining in the village. The survey works intensified from 2012 onwards.

Mon recognition of Community rights and Misinformation: The mining efforts in Manipur failed to recognize the indigenous community rights over their land and resources. The MoUs contracted with mining companies by GOM were without consultation of the communities and without revealing details of these MoUs and adverse implications. The details of MoUs and mining plan in general in Manipur has not been informed to the people of Manipur. The conferment of mining rights to private companies is dealt as a matter of secrecy.

The pre-feasibility study report (PFR) prepared by the mining company stated that the mining lease area at Lunghar is devoid of any forest land or agricultural land and the entire land is categorized as unclassed Government land despite the fact that Sirohi and Lunghar villages are one of the most forested area of Manipur along with Shingcha – Gamnon. The project authority stated that the peak is part of Shirui – Kashong range which is 2570 m in height and has a habitat of rare and endangered species of lily called “Siroy Lily”, at around 4.5 km from the lease area. The PFR also stated that there is no ecologically sensitive habitat like National Park, Wildlife Sanctuary within 10km radius of the ML area. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) prepared by the ERM India Private Limited for RAMCO for mining at Singcha-Gamnon falsely stated that the mining lease (ML) area is devoid of any forest land or agricultural land and that the entire land is categorized as unclassed Government land. The EIA and the application for necessary clearance also indicated that there are no village nearby except for few hamlets of houses. In Manipur, the entire forest land is part of the community land, used for livelihood activities. There is no waste land and any diversion of forest land or community land for mining requires the consent of the community and the full application of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

The EIA prepared by RAMCO in Singcha – Gamnon failed to mention the settlement and livelihood dependence of tribe and other indigenous communities in the mining lease area. Further, the area is inhabited by the Tangkhul and the Kuki tribes, which are both recognized as tribals by the Government and hence needing special consideration of impacts of mining. Similarly, the mining plan by Gulf Resources in Kwatha Village failed to recognize the Meitei communities’ rights over their land and resources. Question arises if the mining plan in Manipur takes consent of Hill Area Committee (HAC) under Article 371 © of Indian Constitution.      …to be contd

Jiten Yumnam

The article was first published in The Sangai Express on August 5, 2020. Views are personal. The writer can be reached at mangangmacha@gmail.com


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