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Mining rap in pioneer tribute

Jamshedpur, May 12: While Tata Steel, and not the state government, celebrated today the 150th birth anniversary of the geologist who first discovered iron ore deposits in the state, the government came in for sharp criticism for its alleged mishandling of the precious natural resource.

The deputy director-general of Geological Survey of India (GSI), M.M. Mukherjee, sharply criticised the government for allowing unscientific mining in the state.

He was speaking at a workshop in honour of Pramatha Nath Bose, who was the first Indian science graduate from a British university and was also the first geologist to discover petroleum in Assam.

The state government, Mukherjee said, was issuing mining leases in the most unplanned manner and without taking into account the quality of iron ore or the suitability of the location. Relatively small plots are being leased out to private parties and a huge quantity of good quality iron-ore has been trapped, wasted or illegally mined in the areas between the plots. This should have been avoided, he added, by scientific demarcation of leased land.

The GSI deputy director-general alleged that the government has shown no interest in either making use of GSI’s expertise or taken any step to train its own people. People working in the state government’s department of mining and geology, he said, do not have in-depth knowledge of mining and iron-ores.

They can neither ascertain the quality of the ore, nor do they have any expertise in using low-quality ore by mixing it with superior grades. Yet, Mukherjee complained, the government has shown no inclination in enhancing or improving the knowledge base of its officials.

What is worse, he complained that the government is not utilising the resources and expertise of the GSI to maximise returns from its rich, mineral reserves. He also criticised the government for not taking any initiative to explore and identify further reserves of iron-ore.

“The government has never approached the GSI for initiating any exploration to identify the hidden reserves,” he said and pointed out that GSI can start exploration in the state only after receiving a formal request from the state geological planning board.

Mukherjee hinted that the government was toying with the idea of stopping export of iron-ore in a phased manner. The country exported 60 million tonnes of iron ore last year and the figure is expected to go up to 70 million tonnes by the end of the current financial year. It would be far more beneficial, he said, if the country could add value to the ore before exporting it.

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