The development and expansion of India’s coal mining sector is one the major planks in India’s push for economic growth and industrial modernization, and in providing the fuel for electricity generation and coke for steel-making. The current emphasis is on the exploitation of shallow coal reserves using open-cast mining techniques in erstwhile forested areas, mostly in Jharkhand and West Bengal, but also elsewhere such as in Chhattisgarh. Open-cast (also known as open cut) mining, as it is carried out generally in India, removes soil and rock (which is commonly known as the ‘overburden’) from the top of the coal seams by blasting, followed by removal with large earth-moving equipment (draglines and dump trucks). The exposed coal is then broken by blasting or crushing and loaded on trucks or railway wagons to be transported away to the consumers. The excavations form a pit typically a few hundred metres long, 50 m wide and up to 80 m deep, depending on the depth of the coal and the thickness of the seam. Usually, once the coal is extracted, the pit then moves laterally and the overburden is then dumped into the previous pit. At the end a void is left behind in India. One can easily see that open-cast mining has a large footprint. A mine producing 40 million tonnes of coal in its lifetime (approximately 15 years, but often double that) will leave a scar about 25 sq km in area. Consequently, in a heavily populated country such as India, displacement of people is inevitable. Where coal occurs in lands held traditionally by indigenous peoples, mining these lands raises serious questions of social justice. When coal mines destroy and degrade forested tracts, devastating the local flora and fauna – and along with them the lives of local poor – then one begins to see through the politics of selective dispossession that hides within the official messages of development.
|Title of host publication
|The Coal Nation: Histories, Ecologies and Politics of Coal in India
|Place of Publication
|Farnham, UK and Burlington, USA
|Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
|Published - 2016