Converting Common Lands for Mining: Lessons from India

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Date
2011
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"It is a well known ecological fact that the best known forests, river and ocean basins, and fertile landscapes are also rich below ground with natural resources such as fossil oils and minerals. Mining of underground natural resources do require giving up the rights and usufruct benefits of surface based natural resources. Added to this is the fact that the history of the world has seen a continual modification and mortification of the landscape of the earth both above and underground for anthropocentric purposes; and most of such land conversions are irreversible. Referring to Indian sub-continent, Indian sub-soils are rich in onshore and off shore crude oils and gas, coal, iron ore, copper, bauxite etc. The reserves of balance and recoverable iron ore, coal, crude oil and natural gas are of the order of 25 billion tones, 265 billion tones, 725 MMT and 1075 billion cu. Meters, respectively. They are locked under a total forest area of about 3.29 million sq kms, about 8.4 million ha of rivers and streams, and another 2.1 million ha of water bodies, 55.5 million ha of sandy areas and so on. Of all variety of land use categories, the common lands consisting of forest lands, pasture lands, and current fallow and Cultural waste lands dominate with an area of about 83 million ha. As has been the practice through the development process, these lands have been the first targets for land conversions for extracting minerals and oils. Estimated degraded lands are of the order of 120 Mha. Since the commons from above and below ground resources are required for any sustainable and quality life, it is only a balanced strategy to their use and extraction, including a search for alternatives, along with good governance and regulatory mechanism are called for with an area of about 83 million ha. As has been the practice through the development process, these lands have been the first targets for land conversions for extracting minerals and oils. Estimated degraded lands are of the order of 120 Mha. Since the commons from above and below ground resources are required for any sustainable and quality life, it is only a balanced strategy to their use and extraction, including a search for alternatives, along with good governance and regulatory mechanism are called for."
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development, land tenure and use, governance and politics, regulation, mining
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