The Chhattisgarh government on Tuesday, 12 June ordered a halt to all works related to proposed iron ore mining at Deposit-13 in Bailadila hill range in Danewada district amid protest by tribals against excavation.
The tribals in the area have launched an indefinite protest against iron ore excavation in Bailadila, where one of the hills is revered as a deity by local adivasis.
Currently, only tree cutting work is underway to build an approach road to the mining site on the hill.
“Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has directed immediate stoppage of cutting of trees in the iron ore Deposit no 13 in Bailadila hill range in Kirandul area of Dantewada and other works related to this project for now,” a public relations officer in the state government said.
Thousands of tribals, under the banner of the Sanyukt Panchayat Samiti, have resorted to protest against iron ore mining on hills in the Deposit no 13 since 7 June.
The hill revered by the tribals is situated in the Bailadila Iron Ore Mining Area belonging to National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), a central public sector undertaking.
The protest has disrupted iron ore production since the last five days in three NDMC mines in Kirandul, around 450km from state capital Raipur, as the agitators have blocked a check-post of the company and have denied entry to labourers.
Congress MP from Bastar Dipak Baij had met protesters on Monday, 11 June and assured them to put forth their grievances before the chief minister.
The chief minister took the decision to halt all works after a delegation from Bastar, led by Baij and former Union Minister Arvind Netam, met him on Tuesday.
“The CM, after the meeting, ordered immediate stoppage of felling of trees and other works related to the project (Deposit no. 13) in the area concerned,” the official said.
‘Fake’ Gram Sabha Gave Nod to the Project
The delegation complained about “illegal” deforestation in the area and alleged that a fake gram sabha was held in 2014 for seeking villagers’ nod for mining in the deposit.
It also apprised the chief minister about the ongoing protest by tribals there.
“The CM also gave orders for a probe into illegal deforestation in the affected area and to examine the alleged fake gram sabha held in 2014 that gave nod to the project,” the official said.
Baghel assured the delegation that the state government will initiate correspondence with the Centre over the issue and apprise it about local people's sentiments, he added.
The Congress chief minister told the team that the state government will take all necessary action in the matter under its jurisdiction, but pointed out that the mines fall under the purview of NMDC which is a Government of India undertaking, he said.
The 10 MTPA capacity Bailadila Iron Ore Deposit-13 is being developed by a joint venture company called NCL, formed by NMDC and the Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation.
A contract for excavation and mine development was awarded to Adani Enterprises Ltd last year, when the BJP was in power in the state, officials said.
According to the officials, currently the forest department was involved in cutting trees to build an approach road to the mining site on the hill.
Speaking to PTI, V S Prabhakar, chief executive officer (CEO), NCL, said, “No activities will be carried out in the Deposit no.13 till further decision by the state government.”
The CEO had earlier said that religious rights of the tribals would remain unaffected due to mining on the hill and they could offer prayers to their deity even after excavation and production starts there.
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