Informal coal mining in Eastern India: Evidence from the Raniganj Coalbelt
Abstract:Unauthorized mines are not uncommon in mineral-rich regions of poorer countries, and India is no exception. Whether they constitute merely a law and order problem including safety issues, or there are important social and economic questions involved has yet to be thrashed out. The mining industry, at regional, national and international levels, is ambivalent towards such mining, tending to draw attention away from their informal nature to the size factor.
This article looks into the problem of such informal mining in the light of empirical surveys in eastern Indian collieries. These are called peoples’ mines and they serve a significant purpose in local economies. The article's thesis is that peasant communities are trying to claim back a portion of the local resources lost to them through appropriation by mining companies thus re-asserting their traditional rights to local mineral resources. In conclusion, the need for a new moral economy for mining regions is stressed: an economy in which local communities will play a powerful role.