Case Study – Bunder Project Essay
Good morning and Namaste. It is my honour to participate in this conference on Sustainable Mining. I thank FICCI and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the invitation to share our experiences in preparing for sustainable mining at Rio Tinto’s Bunder diamond project in Madhya Pradesh, for which I am responsible. I would first like to provide you all with some brief context on Rio Tinto in India, our Bunder project and what sustainable mining means to me. I will then share with you some of the work on the ground that we are doing toward sustainable development in the area which we hope will soon be India’s next diamond mine.
Slide 2 – Rio Tinto in India It may surprise many of you that Rio Tinto has been in India since the 1930s. Today we have offices and activities in several places around the country. We sell many products to India, we buy goods and services from India, and we are exploring opportunities to become a miner and producer of minerals in India. Our most advanced diamond project worldwide is the Bunder diamond project located in the heart of incredible India, near the town of Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh.
Slide 3 – Bunder pictures – discovery, resource, processing plant, camp. The Bunder diamond deposits were discovered in 2004 after only two years of exploration in Bundelkhand. Since then we have established an accommodation campus, complete with recreation facilities, and a medical clinic which has grown to a capacity of 140 beds. We conducted an economic viability study, and in 2008, declared an inferred resource of 27 million carats of diamonds and applied for a mining lease to develop this resource into a mining and beneficiation operation.
We have conducted extensive drill sampling of the deposit, and environmental, social, engineering and workforce development studies to support the development of a detailed blueprint for the project. In 2009 we established a state-of-the-art sample processing plant with a nameplate capacity of ten tonnes per hour, to process the samples which have been collected. What I want to do today is to paint a picture of the range and scale of the activities on the ground in the pre-mining phase of our project.
We may not yet have a mining operation, however we are already operating many of the facilities and departments that exist in your mining operations. We have a workforce of over 400, around 280 of whom come from the local area. We have a technical team on-site covering all the key mining-related disciplines of geology; mining; mechanical, electrical and civil engineers; machinery maintenance; environmental scientists; health and safety specialists; community development relations; workforce development and training; and security.
Our challenge around sustainable mining is similar to yours, with perhaps one advantage/disadvantage depending on your viewpoint – we are able to set down the foundations for sustainable development which is an advantage, and we are also creating expectations in this pre-mining phase, in other words …. to start as we mean to go on… Slide 4: Four pillars of sustainable development We have all heard many times about the pillars of sustainable development shown on this slide. What do they mean at the Bunder project?
Sustainable development and sustainable mining means: creating jobs, training and development; protecting the physical environment in which we work; caring for and trusting our people; and being open about our activities and listening to those who also care about our activities. Being open and listening means having a constant conversation with our neighbours, near and far. And what do our neighbours say about development and what do they want to see: any guesses? Jobs, water and education: perhaps no different from many other rural areas in northern India.
Our experience has taught us many lessons, including the importance of local solutions for local issues. In this short case study, let me show you some examples of the sustainable development activities that are delivering benefits for us and may be of value for a pre-mining development project like ours, or even a growing existing mining operation. First let’s look at the physical environment: Slide 5: Sustainability garden Back in 2006, when we established our accommodation campus, we started our sustainability garden. This garden has been an incubator for our environment team.
Over the years we have been able to test and demonstrate real solutions to local environmental issues. For example, a campus of 145 beds and generally more than 100 people generates a lot of waste; so does a village! We have a comprehensive waste reuse programme including a worm farm, organic farming, floriculture and, most recently, biogas generation. The small biogas plant generates enough power for a street light at an initial cost of a few thousand rupees. We are hoping the concept will catch on in the surrounding villages, where other biogas inputs such as cow dung can be used as fuel.
Slide 6: Plantation and saplings In the garden, through trial and error, we have discovered species of value that can be grown in the region – medicinal plants, vegetables, citrus trees and flowers like marigold. I say through trial and error, as we have also learnt some important lessons along the way. At our sample processing plant, as one of the first activities, we planted a green curtain around the edges of the area. Our first plantation included mango trees – great idea we thought – these trees will not only provide a green curtain, they will also provide a cash crop for the community.
Perhaps we wanted to emulate on a smaller scale the orchards of Jamnagar Refinery! Well those mango trees didn’t make it. In fact the physical environment was not at all suited to mango trees. Other species did do well, including citrus trees, which will also bear fruit in coming years. This is a picture of the plantation area today after almost three years. And we have learnt an important lesson that we will apply when planting trees as part of our mining operation. Slide 7: Water harvesting compilation Water is a scarce resource in the Bundelkhand region.
Centuries-old water management practices can no longer keep up with people’s growing needs, let alone provide surplus for development. In this situation, where every drop counts, we have put in place simple rainwater harvesting on all our structures at the sample processing plant and the campus. This is then used to replenish the groundwater. We also recycle all grey and black water from the kitchens, bathrooms and the laundry in the sustainability garden. Slide 8: Lantana eradication and recycling We are operating in a forested area, which is unfortunately for the health of the forest ecosystem, infested with lantana weed.
Over the past year we started working with the district forest department and the village forest committees, and this monsoon season, cleared around 120 hectares – over 16,000 working hours of local employment. We have also taken this one step further by working with a local NGO at skills development around lantana furniture fabrication – to find a value-adding use for this weed eradication product. Orders have been placed for corporate dining room chairs and several sofa sets. We hope to see orders grow and are looking together for further marketing options – wait for them to appear in a Fabindia store near you!
Jobs and education are closely linked for us at the Bunder project. We can’t employ everyone, so for sustainability we are looking at employability, starting with education at the lowest level. Slide 9: Capacity building – three panels Support starts around Bunder at aganwadi centres, through primary and middle schools, through our unique partnership with UNICEF, and continues into high school with our 10th Class Board exams coaching programmes. Through UNICEF, we are focusing on improving teaching methods, providing teachers with capacity-building support.
We are fast-tracking the introduction of the new learning curriculum based on a concept called “Activity-based learning” to 186 primary and middle schools in the Buxwaha Block. Slide 10: Driver training We are also focusing on mining-specific skills development for our future workforce – including on-the-job training. Most noticeably in the local area, we are training women as drivers. In 2010 we looked at the gender gap in our workforce – which was perhaps typical of the mining industry worldwide – very large.
Despite our efforts, we were failing to create sufficient job opportunities for women. So we held a workshop, and invited the CEO of the district to address a group of women and help us open up a conversation about what sort of work women might be interested in doing in our operations. As a result of this conversation, we started a driver training programme for women, and I gave the students a challenge: if I could learn to wear a sari, which comes easily to them, they could learn to drive, which comes easily to me.
We all passed the test and we now have four women proudly driving vehicles in our operations. This is a small and successful step towards increasing the participation of women in our current and future workforce and in creating transferable skills and employability in our neighbouring communities. Slide 11: Picture of Sita Ram Rungta Social Awareness Award What is our business case? We are pre-mining and why are we investing in sustainable mining? This is very simple. If I invest in education and training, I am building a capable local workforce for the future.
If I stimulate the local economy with jobs and enterprise development, I bring essential goods and services for my businesses closer to my doorstep. And if I protect and enhance the physical environment, I protect and ensure the sustainability of the ecosystem and biodiversity that surrounds the natural resources, like water, and people that are essential to my business. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes business sense for me to invest in sustainable mining at this pre-mining stage… and to start as we mean to go on…