Iron-ore production resumes in NMDC as tribals end strike in Chhattisgarh

Production in two major facilities of state-run National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) in Chhattisgarh resumed after six days as tribals agitating against a mine allotted to the company called off their strike Thursday morning.

Of the three fully mechanized mines of NMDC, country largest iron-ore producer and exporter, two are located in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. The company operates two complexes namely Bacheli and Kirandul.

The capacity of two complexes is 25 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). It shares about 80 per cent of NMDC's total iron-ore output.

The mining in the two complexes had come to a halt on Friday as tribals resorted to indefinite strike. They blocked the check post that prevented employees to enter the mines.

The tribals have been protesting against the Bailadila Deposit-13 that was allotted to NMDC. They claimed that the hill had religious significance for them as it houses their deity. The tribals were adamant that they would not allow developing the mine at any cost.

The local police authorities claimed that Maoists were involved in instigating the villagers and forced them to reach Bacheli-Kirandul from interior areas. Many travelled even 50 kms to reach the spot. The pamphlets recovered by the police underlined that Maoists were opposing the mine allotted to private party. 

Adani Enterprises Limited (AEL) had been appointed as the mining contractor. The mining lease for the deposit was issued to NCL, a joint venture of NMDC and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC). 

The state government on Tuesday issued an order to immediate halt actions related to project for now. It constituted a three-member committee to probe alleged illegal felling of trees. The government also assured to examine the gram sabha held in 2014 that villagers’ claimed fake. The authorities say the gram sabha had given consent for developing the 10-mtpa mine.

The Samyukta Panchayat Samiti rejected the government offer and demanded that probe be completed in three days. The government had set the deadline of 15 days. As the situation was slipping out of control, state government decided to crackdown.

On Wednesday night, NMDC Chairman-cum-Managing Director N Baijendra Kumar met Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel. The strike was against a new mine but it had severely affected the operation of existing mine.

Last night, the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Kirandul issued an order asking the agitators to vacant the place by mid-night or face strict action. The authorities had planned to evict the tribals. Fearing stringent action, most of the villages had dispersed in the night.

On Thursday morning, they returned. The administrative officials also reached the spot and talked to the leaders heading the campaign. The officials told them they would be left with no option then to use force. Finally, the strike was called off.

The tribals who travelled kilometers bare foot to reach the spot were boarded on trucks for their native place.

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