Outlook Mining Issue
Outlook Mining Issue

Outlook Mining Issue

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As the sector transforms, it faces new challenges

 Blast From the Past

Back then, it was exploitative, almost inhuman

Digital Mining

The mines of tomorrow will be smart, connected,

and require minimal manual intervention


Santosh Sharma, CMD, Hindustan Copper,

on the new corporate vision

 Cover Story

Sunil Duggal, CEO, Hindustan Zinc,

on the plans to digitise the mines


N. Baijendra Kumar, CMD, NMDC,

presents a new blueprint


T.K. Chand, CMD, NALCO, on global and

domestic challenges for his company

WHEN we envisaged this special issue on mining,

there were huge yawns. The common perception

was that the sector wasn’t interesting;

in journalism jargon, it wasn’t sexy. However,

when we researched the subject, we were surprised

to find several exciting trends in the sector. In fact,

mining was being modernised rapidly, and emerging

as a new, 21st century operation. Technology, robotics,

artificial intelligence, 3-D solutions, and automation

were changing managements’ mindset and strategies,

business models, operations, policies, and

impact on the workers and local communities. Although

there were grey areas, mining was no longer

exploitative and manipulative. It was no longer a

‘sunset’ sector.

But there was an unusual ‘sunset’ trend. State-owned

enterprises (SOEs), rather than large private miners, were at the forefront of exploration

and production, both in their respective countries and overseas. Like what happened in

the oil and gas sector in the past few decades, public sector managers, along with their

governments, were re-shaping the mining landscape. Policy makers were pushing the

SOEs to spend more to expand domestic production, and buy global assets. Thus, the

SOEs were slowly, but steadily, becoming the new MNCs with international footprints.

The faceless managers were initiating jaw-dropping transformation.

Local communities were no longer being treated like herds of people that had to be

dealt with. Governments had initiated laws to set up huge funds to deal with the issues

of their displacement and rehabilitation. Both private and public miners focussed exceedingly

on CSR activities to empower these communities. The operations were being

streamlined in a manner so that after the exhaustion of the mines in 20-50 years,

the areas were left in almost pre-mining conditions. Hence, the displaced communities

could come back to their original habitats, if they wished to do so.

On the policy front, several new ideas were being discussed. There were talks about

leasing the land to the miners, rather than asking them to acquire it. Thus, instead of

paying huge market prices, they needed to pay attractive regular rentals to the property

owners. To further ease land acquisition, the government could remove all encumbrances

associated with the land, or give clarity about the state of the land (encroached,

tribal, forest area, etc). Successful explorers of new mines could be given the

first right of refusal to mine, or compensated in case they lost out in the auctions.

Let us not go on and on. This is an opportune time for the readers to now turn the

pages, and enjoy the new, almost-fantastical world of mining as much as we did. Over

to you, dear reader!