The Bhilai Steel Plant, a symbol of modern India, is running out of iron ore

Once filled with dense forests, the Dalli Rajhara area which supplies iron ore to the Bhilai Steel Plant, is now a reddish vast expanse taking a toll on the villagers and their water resources.
Dalli Rajhara Mines in Chhattisgarh Dalli Rajhara Mines in Chhattisgarh

For the last 50 years, the Bhilai Steel Plant, which is India's largest integrated steel plant has got its supply of iron ore from Dalli Rajhara's mines. Dalli Rajhara, a municipality which is also an industrial city is located 90km south of Durg in Chhattisgarh. It is a part of the Rajhara group of mines. Iron ore mined in this area are of two types - hematite and magnetite. Other mines in the neighbourhood contain varieties such as dolomite, lime and other raw materials that are integral for the production of steel. 

Started in 1960, the Dalli Rajhara mines seem to be nearing their capacity - they only have about 100 million tonnes iron ore reserves left, enough to last a maximum of ten years. I doubt if the residents of the area would've even dreamed that it would've come to this. A long time ago, this town had an immense amount of natural resources and deep, dense forests but things have changed in the last 50 years. 

Industrialization and urbanization have led to the entire area being surrounded by iron ore dust instead of lush green forests. 90% of the forested area has been converted to open pit mines leading to massive deforestation. This has resulted in water shortage for neighbouring villages. Wells numbering in the hundreds have disappeared therefore lowering the water table in the area and common bird species like the sparrow, crow and parrot have drastically decreased.

 

Dalli Rajhara City Map

 

A view of Dalli Rajhara city. Due to iron ore mining, the pollution in the city has increased  drastically in the last two decades.

 

A view of the open cast iron ore mine Dalli Rajhara. The mining has lead to severe deforestation in the area.

 

 

 

Dumper carrying iron ore from the mines. The use of heavy vehicles in the mines and within city  limits has badly affected the roads in the area.

 

The use of hydraulic shovels for mining has affected employment in the area and has increased social problems related to unemployment.

 

The last five years has seen a sharp decline in the water table in the area due to which various wells in the town have either dried up or have very limited water.

 

Local birds species like crows and sparrows are slowly vanishing in the area. The population of these birds has drastically reduced over the last two decades.

 

Work in progress on the Dalli Rajhara Rowghat rail line -The environmental impact of Dalli Rajarah mining is devastating. Now, to quench the thirst of the industries for iron ore, the government has permitted mining in Rowghat which will devastate another area.

 

Realizing the impact of mining activities, the Chhattisgarh government decided to tap into a neighbouring mine in Rowghat to increase supply. A railway line is being extended now but this has its own issues of pollution and emmission of air contaminants. 

In 2001, an independent assessment of World Bank-sponsored mining projects in India concluded that 'people living close to the mines have suffered most and benefitted the least' (see attached report). Acute respiratory Illness and malaria were common among people living close to mines such as the Dalli Rajhara.

Mining has far-reaching effects not only on climate changeand natural resources but also on society. Going forward, industrial planning and developement strategies must factor in all these aspects to ensure the longevity of our resources.

See the entire photo set here.
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