HLN Goa the first company to start mining after the ban. Interview with the MD – Haresh Melwani.

We saw that mining as an industry was grossly affected and shutdown in Goa because of activism resulting in the closure of a large number of companies and losses of jobs dealing a blow to the states economy. What efforts were taken by HL Nathuram to educate the states population on the benefits of mining to the state and the micro economies?

HLN has a very symbiotic relationship with the villages surrounding the mine since 100% of the workforce was from the surrounding villages. Moreover the support given to the high school and the ITI in the neighborhood also built up the relationship.
HLN was the first to attempt zero waste mining and also value addition to low grade ores, rather than mine huge quantities, which was being managed by the locals so the knowledge of the good mining practises as well as the skill upgradation of the local people and employees.

How did this ban affect India’s standing in the world market and has there been a significant shift in this perception post your restarting the operations?

The main market for Goan Ores was overseas since the Indian Steel Plants were designed for lumpy iron ores,( plus 10 mm in size ) whereas Goa produced mainly fines (minus 10 mm size)
Having traditionally been suppliers to the steel plants in Japan initially and later to China, the overseas steel plants designed their supply sources to blend the low grade Goan Ores with higher grade ores / concentrates, for efficient operations.
Due to the frequent flip flops on the ability of Goan mines to produce consistently, the overseas steel plants don’t want to look at Goa as a supply source and the Indian Steel Plants don’t want to use Goan Ores.

Due to the frequent flip flops on the ability of Goan mines to produce consistently, the overseas steel plants don’t want to look at Goa as a supply source and the Indian Steel Plants don’t want to use Goan Ores.

Now that the mineral policy is out what do you see as the positive changes and what are the issues that you feel than need to still be addressed including regulatory ones. Will it entice you to get back into the core activity of mining instead of diversifying into mineral processing?

The new Mineral Policy does not address many issues related to the Goan mining situation and due to their ignorance of the peculiarities of the Goan Mining scenario, it will need fine tuning to make Goan Mining attractive for investment, so in my opinion the only possibility over next 5 year horizon is Mineral Processing.

The new Mineral Policy does not address many issues related to the Goan mining situation

Has the new mineral policy impacted the expansion plans of companies or are more and more Indian companies looking at other geographies because they feel the climate for mining is still not conducive to large scale expansions?

The main aspect of the New Mineral Policy centres on the Auctioning of the Leases and this process has many imponderables yet to be addressed. So the long term investors are waiting and watching for positive developments.
Many Indian companies, including ours is looking at investments in other countries which have better long term environment.

Many Indian companies, including ours is looking at investments in other countries which have better long term environment.

What are your views on the policies governing minerals, particularly rare earth, and the new technologies?

It is indeed a struggle to get a lease for the new minerals including rare earths and the investment required for exploration and prospecting are not supported by the new Mineral Policy, so until same is revised no private sector investment is flowing in that direction.

With the Prime Ministers “Make in India” initiative do you expect an increase in demand for the same minerals in India that were otherwise being exported to China Japan, Taiwan etc.?

While it is good to maintain an optimistic approach, the results are yet to be seen on the industrial front.

As a company thats been in mining for the last few decades do you foresee that CSR activities can go beyond the conventional activities of just education & healthcare?

One must always maintain an appropriate distance as the mining is done in remote villages and the tribal people have their own traditions and customs, so our so called CSR activities must be careful not to trample on their value systems.

How would you as an industry leader offset the environmental imbalance created by mining (or rather the notion created by activists) with more publicised initiatives that can have a positive impact eg. creating biodiversity parks?

Sir, mining is essentially a subtractive operation which cannot be forgotten. However, we recommended to Govt of India to permit the exhausted mining pits to be used for water harvesting of the substantial rainfall in Goa, as an approved closure and rehabilitation activity, and we were happy that within 30 days the notification was issued to enable same.

Barges have been used along the coast to transport cars from Chennai to Gujarat- do you believe states should invest in barges or open up the opportunity to private players to transport minerals using barges?

Mining pits to be used for water harvesting rainfall

While it is true that Indian coastline offers good opportunity for cheap shipping, but it needs land infrastructure to support the traffic.
Goan barges are designed for inland waterways whereas coastal shipping needs Ocean Worthy vessels, so we are still a long way away from utilizing our coastline effectively.
I firmly believe that Government should restrict itself to administration and infrastructure and create a positive climate for Private Sector Investments.

Do you think exploration as an activity should be opened up to private companies as an activity just like mining and prospectors rewarded or should it be solely the domain of the Government?

Exploration is currently permitted to be done by private sector as also Govt sector. The private sector is currently not approaching the exploration business due to no significant advantage after a reserve is declared. So this policy needs amendment and is under discussion.

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