Essel Mining and Industries Limited, a subsidiary of the Aditya Birla group, has been unable to operationalise a big diamond project in Madhya Pradesh. The mine is inside a forest in Buxwaha, located 200 km from Sanchi, a sleepy town synonymous with stupas. With a potential haul of about 34 million carats of rough diamonds valued at a whopping Rs 55,000 crore, the Bunder diamond block could be among Asia’s largest mines.
Essel Mining and Industries Limited (EMIL), an Aditya Birla group affiliate, has been unable to put a large diamond project in Madhya Pradesh into operation. The Aditya Birla Group operates in over 36 countries and generates $46 billion in revenue.
The mine is located in Buxwaha, 200 kilometres from Sanchi, a peaceful hamlet known for stupas, hemispherical monuments housing Buddha relics.
The Bunder diamond block, with a potential yield of over 34 million carats of rough diamonds valued at a stunning Rs 55,000 crore, might be one of Asia’s largest mines. It has the potential to place India among the top 10 raw diamond producers in the world.
Diamonds are produced in three Indian states: Andhra Pradesh (AP), Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh (MP). MP accounts for almost 90 percent of the country’s diamond resources.
EMIL has expressed its concerns to the MP government, expressing its alarm over the “violent climate” in the Buxwaha forest and “severe disturbances” produced by a portion of the people under the garb of “nature preservation”.
“Working in Buxwaha is nearly difficult. It is really difficult, and there are several disturbances. “The environment is not favourable at all,” a top source at Essel Mining told Moneycontrol. “A few people are polluting the environment and causing problems, but the rest of the locals want mining to go place,” he explained.
The state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has been unable to settle the situation.
Following an open bidding procedure, the Madhya Pradesh government awarded the lease to the Mumbai-based business.
The mining zone was previously examined for five years before being given up to Rio Tinto of Australia in 2012. In August 2013, the multinational mining conglomerate received project permission from the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM). Rio Tinto received environmental approval in August 2015. However, because it was unable to mine the diamonds (perhaps owing to activist demonstrations), it returned the project to the state government and fled.
The state government, which had granted a massive 954 hectares for mining to Rio Tinto, decreased the area to 364 hectares, an almost 60% reduction, in order to conserve the overall ecology.
The block was auctioned off once again. EMIL won the block on December 19, 2019, with a revenue sharing of 30.05 percent to the state government. The MP government expected to get Rs 275 crore for giving the lease and a massive Rs 28,000 crore throughout the project’s lifetime.
Activists, however, continued to protest the mining. Medha Patkar, a Narmada river campaigner, Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj India, and Ishwar Chandra Tripathi, also known as Vindhyachal Lion, were among those there. Some of the other activists are members of the Left parties, as well as the radical student organisation AISA (All International Students Association).
The local authorities in Sagar, the administrative division in which the Buxwaha forest is located, maintained that none of the activists had visited the mined region. They hadn’t even asked the residents whether they wanted the mine or the trees instead.
“It will be unfortunate if Essel withdraws. There will be no growth in the region. “Essel should have talked to the people and developed the mines,” said Avinash Chanchal, a well-known social worker in Sagar.
“The residents want the development that Rio Tinto has begun. These activists came and demolished the land,” said Chanchal, adding: “It is the loss of Sagar, the loss of the locals. Even the state administration has succumbed to this heinous falsehood.”
The problems surrounding the Bunder project are strikingly similar to those involving the nearby coal mine in Chhattisgarh. The Adani group is being chastised in India for mining coal as a contractor for the Rajasthan government, which requires coal for its power plants.
The activists in Sagar debate without any scientific or other justification. Tripathi, one of the most outspoken opponents of the Bunder diamond project, told Moneycontrol that he feared mining would destroy the whole forest cover of Buxwaha.
“India’s leading diamond dealers have brought humiliation to the country. “We don’t want diamonds; everything in Buxwaha will be destroyed,” Tripathi informed this reporter.
Diamonds are a product for the wealthy. According to Tripathi, the people do not require diamonds, but rather work, food, and shelter. “If the mine begins operations, a large tribal community will be relocated,” he warned.
Social media has been flooded with images of protestors holding trees in the bush that are rumoured to be mined. They tell a story about the affluent stealing resources from the poor, who rely only on the trees for a living.
“But this is not the case,” Ramesh Singh, a seasoned politician in Sagar, remarked. According to Singh, the mining dispute has devolved into an unnecessary battle of words. “The state administration has approved the mine, the locals want the mining, but the activists are causing unnecessary disruption.”
So, what is the truth?
He claims that the photographs of demonstrators clutching trees were taken more than 15 kilometres away from the mining site.
In a telephone conversation, environmentalist Sankalp Jain stated that embracing the trees was a symbolic act. When asked if the land contains a lot of fruit-bearing trees that the tribals/villagers eat, he responded he didn’t know if a census had been done.
Manish Jain, a Sagar merchant, believes the outrage over the project’s tree-felling is unjustified.
Essel has not said how many trees would be felled; the operation will be phased over a decade and a half. This is in accordance with the agreement reached with the state administration. Scientific techniques will guarantee that the area is used efficiently, and an estimated 383,000 trees will be planted. That is 1.8 times the number of trees now in place. The planting drive will begin before the projected mining activities begin in 2023. The first tree will be cut for the mine in 2024, followed by a 15-year phased felling.
Manish Jain spoke on the topic of people relocation “The leasing area has no villages. The nearest settlement, Sagoria, is more than two kilometres away. As a result, no one is affected. The activists’ demand for repair and relocation is ridiculous. It is a method of stealing money from businesses.”
As defined by the United Nations (UN), a blood diamond is any diamond mined in regions held by forces opposing to a country’s legitimate, internationally recognised government and sold to support armed action against that government.
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