The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest global crisis after World WarII, affecting millions of people. Apart from being just a health hazard, it has led to an unprecedented social crisis, affecting several industries and livelihoods. The Indian mining industry is no exception to it.
India is endowed with rich mineral resources. The mining sector is an important segment of the Indian economy. We produce as many as 87 minerals of different categories /types. Since independence, there has been a pronounced growth in mineral production in terms of quantity and value. The Indian mining industry is a capital-intensive industry contributing 2% to 4% of GDP. India has about 3938 operational mines of different mineral types, from coal to minor minerals
The mining industry is also heavily dependent on large labour and workforce. The industry directly employs approximately 23 lakh people, and indirectly, about 2.3 crore people work for the mining sector. Nearly 0.3 % of the Indian population live near mining areas in India. The pandemic has caused a short-term and long-term impact on the workforce and industry. The short-term impacts include suspension of mineral production, loss of wages on account of absenteeism and pandemic restrictions, unemployment, and sale of minerals in the market. In the long-term, the continuity of many mining businesses, reputation and economic health of industries, new mineral deposit exploration and new mining complex development have been affected. Apart from the mining industry-specific effect of COVID-19, the social fabric of the mining workforce has been affected as they are living in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and health concerns.
Following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and getting vaccination is the only solution for the mining sector as well. We must learn from this unprecedented crisis and embark on a future course of actions with sufficient safeguards.
Dr A K Soni