Amid nuke waste row, KGF workers hope to strike gold

Todays meeting in Delhi likely to take a call on reopening gold mines

Amid nuke waste row, KGF workers hope to strike gold

 The controversy surrounding the Centre’s move to dump fuel waste from the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in the gold mines here has rekindled hopes of people in the city that the mines, closed for 12 years now, will be reopened.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is said to have shown interest in reopening the gold mines and all eyes are now on Monday’s meeting in New Delhi in this regard. The meeting, to be chaired by the prime minister, has aroused curiosity in the city. Meanwhile, Union Minister K H Muniyappa told reporters that the meeting was expected to throw up a decisive result.

A number of delegations have met union ministers holding the mines portfolio in the NDA and UPA governments before and after the closure of the mines, seeking their reopening, but to no avail. It is said that the Centre had, in 2006, taken a decision to revive the gold mines, following a discussion in the Union Cabinet. However, with 18 employees’ unions taking divergent views on the issue, a consensus could not be reached.

Protests too have had no impact. The number of employees at the mines had plummeted from 40,000 at one point in time to 3,500 before its closure in 2001. Thousands of workers availed the benefits of the voluntary retirement scheme of the Mines department before the closure and relocated to mines in places like Bellary, Dhanbad and Chitradurga.

Those residing in their small houses in the city for generations, however, stayed back and suffered losses. They did not know jobs other than mining and shifted to their native places in Tamil Nadu like Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Coimbatore. A good number of them took up jobs in Bangalore. An estimated 10,000 workers commute to and from the State capital daily for work and trains to Bangalore are jam-packed.

As time passed, the agitations in favour of the reopening of the gold mines weakened as the number of those taking part in the protests declined. But they have kept the hopes of the mines reopening alive.

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