The Sanquelim Group of Mines belonging to M/s Sesa Sterlite Limited earlier known as Sesa Goa Limited in North Goa District of Goa State covering an area of 203 Ha. After operating for almost 4 decades, the major mining operations were discontinued in the late nineties as it became uneconomical to mine the low grade. The Mining region of Goa has a typical tropical climate with three main seasons winter season, summer season. The area receives an annual rainfall of around 3500mm which accentuates the need to reclaim the exhausted mining pits.
The mines have been reclaimed in a phased manner since the 1980’s with environmental considerations and community infrastructure requirements.
Reclamation of mines consisted of afforestation, retaining some portions of mine pits as water bodies to harvest rain water, use of existing building infrastructure. These activities started at Sanquelim mines in eighties.
Sanquelim group of mines were operated since 1956-57 for production of iron ore and sub-grade ore.
The ore deposit was exploited in six pits. The mine was equipped by other ancilliary facilities like mine office, store, work shop and residential quarters.
The major mining operations were discontinued in late nineties as it was uneconomical to mine the low grade ore. During this period there were no legislation in place for systematic mine closure planning. Yet He Company proactively carried out systematic and scientific mine closure plan. The reclamation activities mainly comprised of three main aspects viz. extensive afforestation, converting some parts of the pits in to water bodies to harvest rain water& utilisation of existing building infrastructure for benefit of community.
Sanquelim Reclamation by means of afforestation started at Sanquelim mines in Eighties. The total area of mine leases is 203 Ha., out of which around 105 Ha. has been effectively reclaimed by afforestation. The mine pits were systematically back filled by forming benches making it feasible for carrying out plantation. Company has planted more than 750,000 saplings on the Sanquelim iron ore mine. Technical and scientific support from research institutes [Goa university, National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa and Fisheries department, Government of Goa] has also been availed wherever required.
Initially Most of the areas were covered by planting fast growing plants like Acacia auriculiformis and Casurina equisatifolia; species advocated and supplied by State forest department, Government of Goa. The reason being the species are fast growing, leguminous, and can grow on dumps without much aftercare and irrigation. These species were basically planted as nurse crop so as to prevent erosion on dumps and stabilize the dumps. Company also tried growing cashew plants based on their past experience at Orasso Dongor mine( Sesa’s First mine).
After the dumps were stabilized, company selected one of the reclaimed mine pits to experiment with different afforestation techniques using native horticulture and forest species.
Technical expertise and guidance from various organisations like Goa university, State Agriculture Department, State Forest Department, Rubber board were taken at the time of implementation . Various systems of plantations like Horti- Silviculture were adopted. Most of the horticulture crops growing in Goa to name a few Mango, Banana, Sapota, Guava, Lemon, Pine apple, Cashew, Spices like Black pepper, Cinnamom, etc were planted with success. The project with rubber board proved that the commertial crops like rubber can also be successfully grown on mine reject soils. Use of leguminous cover crop like Plureria seeds were used to sow in the areas under Accacia and Eucalyptus plantation. The Plureria creeper grew luxuriantly over the trees and over the time killed the Accacia and eucalyptus plantations naturally, thus making the stabilised land available for plantation of native species.
The above two photos showing the leguminous creeper of Plureria species used as cover crop
Along with afforestation a major part of mine pits were also retained or converted in to water bodies by harvesting rain water. In order to value add to the water bodies, the company approached National Institute of Oceanography to find out the possibility of growing or cultivating fresh water fish in the rain water filled mine pit. The Pisciculture project was taken up in 1990 , as a result the cultivation of fish could be successfully carried out and the pit was abundant with fresh water fish like Rohu, Katla, Common Carp etc. The project has also resulted in increase in bird and butterfly activity in the area.
The reclamation was not restricted to growing of plants but also, the old infrastructure like buildings and work shops were put to productive use for a very noble social cause.
The mine work shop was converted in to a Technical school imparting education to local youth and the residential quarters were converted in to Foot ball academy to cater to the needs of the local community
established in the year 1994 on the reclaimed mine. The premises of the earlier mining workshop and office were utilized for the running this technical school. The prime objective of the school is to impart training skill, to develop technical knowledge and to train the local youth in employment oriented fields, so as to enhance their opportunities in securing jobs in the industries or help in self-employment.
Sesa Technical School has been affiliated to National Council of Vocation training. Courses are designed on the market requirements. There are five courses namely Fitter, Machinist, Instrument mechanic, Multi trade (mechanical) and Multi trade (electrical). Annually 70 students are given the admission based on the merits. Students from mining area/ belt are given preference. School also provides the hostel facility. Till date around 1000 youths from mining belt have passed out from this institute and are employed in various industries.
Students of these schools are most preferred by the employer. The school has got a 100% track record and many multinational companies absorb these boys in campus interviews itself. Students from this school have national recognition also.
The Sesa football academy was established in the year 1999. The prime objective is to nurture football talent in Goa and to make positive contribution to our society by producing foot ball players and disciplined citizens.
The course is fully sponsored by the company. It is a residential course of four years. The boys are taken in the age group of 13 to 15. The boys in the morning session go to the local school and in the afternoon hours go through the professional football training. All the facilities like good diet, health care, gymnasium, play ground, etc is provided to the students. The institute boasts of an enviable coaching staff comprising of a former Indian football captain and international coaches with European playing and coaching experience. Residential academy accommodates 36 students per 4 yrs, giving free academic as well as specialized professional football training. Till date the academy has rolled out around 100 professional footballers who represent various professional clubs in India and four of them have also represented the Indian National team
After the success story of the various reclamation techniques in one of the mine pits it was decided to bring the other areas within the sanquelim mine also under biodiversity plantations and hence a Sanquelim Mine Management Plan was prepared in consultation with forest department where in the mature acacia plantations were proposed to cut and to plant various native species to improve the biodiversity of the areas. Under this plan, various projects like were conceptualised and implemented. Details as below:
Two medicinal gardens namely Nakshatra Vatika and Charak Catika based on Constellation , Zodiac signs and Ayurveda respectively were developed. The idea behind it was to spread awareness amongst the locals and school students about medicinal plants growing in our surroundings and its benefits. Each and every plant is identified and provided with other details like medicinal value etc.
In its life cycle the Butterflies require two types of plants to survive namely host plant and nectar plant. If both these types are available it naturally attracts the butterflies. Various plants identified as host and nectar plants( flowering plants) were planted on the mine site, with an aim to attract butterflies. This has added to the beauty of the area also increasing the biodiversity.
Bamboo is one of the commercially important crop and with immense value. Bamboo is one of the frontrunners of environmental rejuvenation due to its high oxygen emitting capacities and also for its ability to capture more carbon from the environment and converting it into biomass in its body. It’s the fastest growing amongst all other woody plants. Its capability to rejuvenate itself without being planted is most advantages because by cutting bamboo one encourages the growth of new ones which grows to its fullest height in 60 days compared to the woody plants which take 60 years.
With an aim to promote bamboo cultivation, various species of bamboo were collected from all over India with the help of state forest department and Forest Research institute , Dehradoon. More than 25 varieties of bamboos have been grown and each of them is identified.
Further to support the cause of bamboo promotion, a huge structure made out of locally available bamboo was constructed. This Bamboo Pavillion is used as a exhibition hall cum training centre for self help groups etc. The concept was conceptualised by ‘KONBAC’ an organisation which works on Bamboo promotion.
In order to assess the reclamation status, it is very important to regularly carry out various biodiversity studies. Various such studies have been carried out from time to time which indicates that if reclamation is carried out scientifically, it can help to convert the area in to more positive land scape. In a recent study by Canopy (Organisation formed by group of environment experts in Goa) it was observed that there are 3 species of mammals, 70 species of birds, 42 species of butterflies, 14 species of Odonates, 12 species of reptiles and 10 species of amphibians in the reclaimed mine area. This shows that the biodiversity of the area has increased significantly.
Mine reclamation is one of the key ingredient of Sustainable Development. Reclamation process does not necessarily means only plantation but also other aspects like water bodies, building infrastructure etc. This case study shows that well planned and application of various scientific techniques results in to a win win situation for the mining company as well as its stake holders. The reclamation process should include interaction and coordination with various research institutes or organisations. Mining and Concurrent reclamation helps to stabilise the area at a fast pace. It is also very important to regularly assess the environmental status during the reclamation process.