It's estimated that 57.54 million tons of bauxite can be mined from Surguja. Mainpat has been home to many tribes (Manjhi, Kanwar and Pahadi Korwa), most of whom have derived their sustenance from smallscale farming in the mountainous forest.
Bauxite mining in Mainpat Tehsil of Surguja District, erstwhile undivided MP, began in 1993 under BALCO. At the time, 639.169 hectares of land was leased to the company. At the time, hundreds of families were directly displaced, small farms were rendered unsuitable for cultivation and the environment was adversely affected. One figure suggests that out of 112 displaced families, only 50 received compensation. Those who were compensated received only Rs. 12,000 per acre as opposed to Rs. 50,000 per acre which had been promised to them.
With the creation of Chhattisgarh in 2000, BALCO's ownership was bought over by Sterlite group (a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources). The new management failed to deliver on the huge amounts of compensation they had promised small farmers and workers. Moreover, they hired more than 4,500 workers but failed to deliver even the basics of what they had promised in their own employment contracts. Bonuses, maternity leaves, housing and education facilities or even basic safety guidelines were reported to be completely absent. In 2007, 45yearold Jagardev Yadav was reportedly beaten up and jailed for protesting against the lack of rehabilitation by Sterlite for acquiring his land.
The same year, Somnath Manjhi a local resident had reported that extractive activities had rendered the soil useless and had led to diseases and health hazards for the residents. Since then, reports of unfair employment practices, human rights violations, environmental degradation and failure to offer Rehabilitation & Resettlement have become increasingly frequent, suggesting an unchanging trend.
The same was reported in 2010. In 2011, protests against unfair employment practices were staged by mineworkers in Surguja. Despite complaints of rehabilitation and environmental violations filed with government bodies, the mine received both forest clearance in 2008 and lease extension for another 10 years in 2012. In a selfappraisal by the company submitted to Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in 2014, Sterlite mentions clearly that out of 26.50 units (presumably hectares) of land due for Resettlement & Rehabilitation, zero units were fulfilled. It is clear that rules and regulations were ignored by one means or another by Sterlite in Mainpat.
Recently, the trend of social injustice, human rights violations and environmental degradation seems to have continued. In 2016, Patrika reported that the UpSarpanch of Kudaridih in Mainpat died of a heart attack after allegedly receiving threats from BALCO executives. He had opposed the reopening of the Kudaridih mine and had received death threats from BALCO executives. Despite a police complaint, little has come out of the case.
Due to human rights and environmental violations, Vedanta was blacklisted by Norway's wealth fund in 2017.
This year, the company plans to expand bauxite production in Mainpat from 750,000 tons per annum to 2.25 million tons per annum. To secure local consent for expansion, a public hearing was held in April this year, which concluded unsuccessfully. Numerous women and youth of the village gathered to voice their protests against the move, citing public health concerns. Moreover, Attorney Sanjay Ambasht brought to the notice of the congregation that the public hearing was void without BALCOs fulfillment of a prior High Court order. The High Court had ordered BALCO to fulfill twelve conditions pertaining to environmental, human rights and rural development concerns. The company had failed to address the order and had proceeded with the public hearing anyway.
As of now, the expansion of Mainpat mine production cannot proceed. The company has taken initiative toward afforestation, but have only planted nonnative monocultures of Eucalyptus. Mine workers continue to struggle for their rights and smallscale farmers continue to lose cultivable land.