Police and Forest Department identify flour mills used to crush excavated ore
The Nilgiris district police have begun to crack down on illegal gold mining in the Devala-Pandalur region. According to police, around 500 families depend directly on the illegal gold mines in the region to earn a living.
“Most of them are subsistence miners, earning just enough to make ends meet,” said an officer,.
An exploitative system
The police said that they found a pervasive and exploitative system, with private jewellery store owners paying subsistence workers a daily wage to venture into the mines. Once they had collected the excavated ore from the miners, jewellers used eight flour mills to powder the ore.
Police also held talks with the miners in the past about the dangers of venturing into the mine shafts, and of the dangers of using explosives to excavate the ore.
Among the miners, a small group of entrepreneurial pit bosses own the mines and provide food, equipment and financial help to the workers. In return, they get a cut from the miners when they uncover deposits.
The district administration had been informed by the police as well as the Forest Department on the need to find alternative employment for the miners before gold mines are shut down. Police and the Forest Department have taken the first steps to shut down the mines. The miners have been told that youngsters venturing into the pits will be stopped and legal action initiated against them.
(Adapted from the Hindu)