NMDC, the country’s largest iron ore miner, reportedly hopes to rope in State Forest Research Institute (SFRI) at Jabalpur, to study tiger movement and other environmental factors at Panna (in Madhya Pradesh), where it plans to resume diamond mining.

One of the key conditions that NMDC has to fulfil to resume mining include submission of an action plan for monitoring the movement of tigers and its prey species in the study area in consultation with the Tiger Reserve authorities and the effectiveness of the remedial measures already taken and to be taken from the view point of environment and safety.

NMDC has written to the State Forest Research Institute (SFRI), Jabalpur for providing their consent and budgetary offer for conducting such studies in consultation with Panna Tiger Reserve and PCCF (WL) Bhopal.

The Steel Ministry is trying to revive diamond mining at Panna - the only mechanised diamond mine in India so far - and has set a July 1 deadline for resumption of operations there.

The iron-ore miner had approached the Minstry of Environment in December 2022 for listing and the proposal was taken up in January this year, an internal report of the Ministry acessed by businessline said.

Panna diamond mines

The Diamond Mining Project at Majhgawan - Panna commenced in 1971-72. In FY21, the mines produced 13,681 carats, while there was no production in FY22, as per NMDC’s annual report. Diamond sales last fiscal stood at 25,219 carats valued at ₹62.93 crore.

The annual report said, remote sensing studies have been completed in Chhattarpur Panna Block 1, Chhattarpur Panna Block 2 and Damoh Block, Panna (5 Prospective Blocks) and Additional 12 Diamond Blocks. Around 3,882 meters of drilling were completed in five blocks and balance drilling in revenue areas is under progress.

Conditions apply

According to Ministry sources, after detailed deliberations made by NMDC, the Expert Advisory Committee recommended “grant of terms of reference” for production of one lakh carats of diamonds per annum across two leases, “for undertaking detailed Environment Impact Assessment study.

Apart from standard terms of reference that are applicable for non-coal mining projects, around 20 additional specific conditions in each mining lease were imposed.

Some other conditions include addressing impact of mining activity on the Panna Tiger Reserve; submission of the implementation status of the Wildlife Conservation Plan in consultation with the Forest Department, among others.

Ministry sources said, the finalisation of report on tiger movement and wildlife conservation conditions is expected by April 30. Other reports on environment impact assessment is also expected by the end of this month.

The environment impact assessment report is likely to be appraised by the Expert Advisory Committee in May, post which clearance for environmental clearance is expected by June.

NMDC previously submitted the compliance report against 12 conditions laid down to the Field Director, Panna Tiger reserve. After review, NMDC was asked to pay around ₹4 crore to the MP Tiger Foundation Society for “further processing the application for issue of wildlife clearance”.