Mines, Minerals And People
Established in 1999, Mines, Minerals and People is a national alliance to combat the destructive impact of irresponsible mining in India.
You have to decide whether development means affluence or whether development means peace, prosperity and happiness – Sunderlal Bahuguna
Mining is a complex problem. A major part of India’s known reserves of minerals are located in areas that are under forest cover. And the tug-of-war for access to more and more forested areas by the mining industry has never been more evident. This is a high-stake industry with huge sums of money involved – and therefore attracts support from political bigwigs. Beyond the environmental, the social and political impact of mining assume far reaching implications as a major part of these areas are inhabited by Dalits and indigenous tribes.
Globalisation and liberalisation programmes led by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are targeting new tracts of land for mining to be acquired with multinational corporations. Mineral extraction today is completely dictated by market forces according to profitability rather than for the benefit of society or a community. Besides this, natural resources of developing countries are being exploited through rampant environmental destruction, while the same resources of richer countries are being safely preserved for their future generations.
Mines, Minerals and People (mm&P) was formed in 1999 as an alliance of individuals, institutions and communities who are concerned and affected by mining. More than 200 grassroots groups across 16 Indian states are working together to combat the destructive nature of mining under the banner of mm&P.
Community-based organisations, academicians, advocates, trainers and sociologists work among affected communities in pre-mining, mining and post-mining situations by supporting local struggles, developing campaign strategies, conducting skill share and exchange programmes, disseminating information and providing technical and scientific expertise. The need to establish such a network was first discussed in 1999, following which a national convention was held in Tukkuguda in Andhra Pradesh in 2000 where a mandate for an alliance was explored. More than 200 delegates from 100 different organisations from 13 states participated in mm&P’s second national convention held in Anandwan, Maharashtra, where communities impacted by mining called for a moratorium on new mining projects.
The alliance adopted a constitution after nationwide discussions among its members at the first general assembly held in 2004. The constitution was framed with the objective of minimising mining and its impacts. Chairperson of Mines, Minerals and People, R. Sreedhar, says, “We conduct a general assembly meeting every two years where the many issues of our stakeholders including mining-affected communities, women in mining areas, mining workers, adivasis and civil society organisations represented by the alliance are addressed. Our fifth general assembly is scheduled to take place at Baba Amte’s Ashram in Anandwan between February 27 and March 1, 2015, where we will look to focus on ideas and solutions to address problems, many which affect communities indirectly, arising from mining.”
The alliance played a crucial role in ensuring benefit sharing for affected communities through the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, the inclusion of tribal issues in the Vedanta Case, and protesting against the large-scale displacement of people by the Polavaram Dam project. They are also involved in community-based activities like building shelters for post-disaster victims, affected communities, and migrant workers among others.
With the change in the government, mm&P is emphasising on the inclusion of benefit sharing, or stakeholdership of community, in policy. The various loop holes surrounding the coal mining industry in India is another area that they are focusing on by taking up issues of rehabilitation and compensation. Overcoming challenges such as streamlining capacity building, training and resources across the alliance is something that mm&P is working towards continuously.
“Strengthening the alliance and its members is an ongoing process, along with lobbying with parliamentarians and engaging with the government on legislations. We have come a long way from 1999 when there was no organisation or body looking at the destructive nature of mining. Though it is difficult to quantify, our work has made a considerable difference in the lives of the communities in many regions,” adds Sreedhar.
All communities affected by mining have a common demand – bringing about a regime of sustainable development. Mines, Minerals and People is an alliance that seeks a paradigm shift in our approach to development by changing current inequitable practices.
For more information contact: R. Sreedhar,Chairperson, Mines, Minerals and People
Tel.: +91 11 2953 1814/+91 98107 06244
Author: Anirudh Nair, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXV No. 1, February 2015.