The mining of manganese ore by the government-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd and a private Goa-based mining company has "resulted in massive degradation" in the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka, says Anantha Hegde Ashisar, convenor of the Vriksha Raksha Andolan, a local environment movement. On January 27, a massive demonstration against indiscriminate mining was held in Sirsi town in the district.
Mysore Minerals Ltd has been granted a mining lease in a large tract of the Bisgod forest in the district. About 10,000 tribals depend on the forests for their livelihood, and activists fear that mining, which has been carried on uninterrupted for 10 years, could lead to desertification of the forest area.
Already, deposition of laterite soil has filled at least 10 irrigation wells, hundreds of acres of agricultural land and dried Anehonda lake, worshipped by the local people. Landslides triggered off by mining activity, claim locals, damaged an areca plantation in Hosmane village during the monsoons last year, causing farmers a loss of Rs 50 lakh. Mining companies refused to pay compensation.
Landslides have caused excessive silting in the Kali river, which could render useless 2 hydroelectric projects. Even the Karnataka environment report of 1993 declares that mining has endangered the forest's biodiversity. Local protests have been ineffective so far, with Mysore Minerals, for instance, being allowed to continue operations, although its mining license expired in 1989.