Lucknow: Following rumours of tonnes of gold ore being underneath land in Sonbhadra, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) on Saturday said that only up to 160 kg of gold can be extracted from the said reserve.
Earlier, rumours were rife—purportedly based on a statement by local mining officer K K Rai—that a gold reserve of more than 50 million tonnes ore was found in Sonbhadra, which was widely reported by several news outlets. The clarification from GSI has come in this context. It will also be holding a meeting with the Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology and Mining on Monday to decide the further course of action. The process of geo tagging and land identification has started in case the government decides to lease out the area for mining.
Meanwhile, K K Rai, admitted while speaking to Newsclick that he had told reporters about the discovery of the reserve, but claimed that he did not comment on the quantity. However, in the purported video of his statement, he can be seen saying words “gold mine” and “2,940 tonnes gold in Son Pahadi” along with the claim that 646 kg of gold has been found in Sonbhadra.
Experts who have been closely watching the Sonbhadra region from many decades have said that they are not in favour of starting the mining process, as “it will definitely damage the ecosystem of the area”.
Nishant Upadhyay, a conservation architect and consultant with UNESCO, cautions that Sonbhadra as a region, rich in natural biodiversity and tribal cultural landscape, represents how man and nature have coexisted in harmony and evolved over ages.
“Disrupting this balance for a meagre amount of gold is not justified. Even financially, the costs predicted by the social impact analysis for the project—which is an essential requirement under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986 and for the relocation of the settlers of the area—will be equivalent if not higher than the gains,” he said.
He added, “I earnestly hope that because of such unverified news reports, the younger generation of the tribals of the region does not resort to extracting minor quantities of gold using harmful chemicals and thereby affecting the overall well-being, culture and health of their community.”
Sonbhadra-based senior journalist, Sunil Kumar Tiwari, said that it is a good news that the gold has been traced in this land, but before starting the mining, the government should also look into the development of the region.
“The Sonbhadra district, one of the biggest districts in the state, has not seen much development. Despite having several power plants, industries, the area is still the most backward and one of the poorest districts in the state. It has also seen a lot of migration due to various reasons and hardly any effort has been made to find a solution to these issues,” he said.
“The limited tribal population of the district is also on the verge of disappearance as earlier, they moved to other places in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and even Bihar due to the fear of Maoism in the area and later, due to the mining mafias,” added Tiwari.
He also said that water at many places in the district is contaminated with high amount of elements not suitable for human consumption, but there is no alternative available to them and this is making everyone sick. “Cases of fluorosis are in every village of the district. Kids here are born with bone problems and teeth defects,” he told NewsClick.
Senior journalist Ratan Mani Lal, on the other hand, said that the curiosity to solve the mystery and find hidden treasures drives humans crazy; especially, the India.
“Sonbhadra is very fragile and before jumping the gun, the government should first brainstorm and figure out how profitable mining of gold will be. Because if mining starts, then not only humans, but also the wildlife and the ecological balance will suffer. Sonbhadra, due to its richness of minerals, had been the epicentre of illegal mining. Due to this, the area has seen drought-like conditions. The government should keep all of this in mind,” said the veteran journalist.
“If as stated by the GSI, only 160 kg of gold can be mined, I do not think that it is a reasonable quantity to start digging, as it will affect everything. The mining will affect the soil, water availability in the area and local settlements. Also, the possibility of re-exploring the area will never end and it can have very bad consequences if a situation like a gold rush occurs,” Lal told NewsClick.