31 December 2021

Prospective Mining Conflicts: Adopt Sustainable Development

Rajesh Chadha & Ishita Kapoor


Mining is an important activity for the growth and development of the country. However, many of the regions with rich mineral resources in India are inhabited by some of the poorest communities. While the expansion of mining activities may benefit the affected local communities, it may harm them if their benefits do not offset the negative impact on their habitat and earnings. Mining can also have adverse environmental impacts. Some of the mining court cases discussed in this note are examples of poor implementation of the laws protecting the environment and the local communities. The growth and development of the mining sector must ensure benefits to the local communities and environmental protection.

Executive Summary

Since it was a part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana region, India’s mineral geology has been documented to be similar to Western Australia, South America and South Africa. However, only 10 percent of India’s Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) has been explored, so there is an urgent need to incentivise exploration by the government and private players. This would enable the optimum use of the hitherto unexplored geological mineral abundance. Furthermore, expanding a vibrant non-fuel mining sector could provide employment opportunities for local communities, fiscal gains for state governments, and create linkages with downstream industries.

India recognises a healthy environment as a right to life. Article 21 of the Constitution states that the “right to live is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution and includes the right to the enjoyment of pollution-free water and air for full enjoyment of life. If anything endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws, a citizen has the right to have recourse.” Along with the right to a clean environment, the Supreme Court has held the right of citizens’ liberty and scope of engagement in decisions of development projects. Some of the significant court judgements regarding mining conflicts in India have been discussed in this note. These judgments cover topics important for the mining business in India, including environmental clearances, tribal rights, fragile ecosystems, illegal mining, overproduction, intergenerational equity, mine closures and rehabilitation of degraded lands.

Mineral-rich areas should be prepared for a smooth transition to begin mining activities. By carefully integrating all the pillars—people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership of sustainable development—the mining sector will contribute to achieving SDGs in a meaningful manner.

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