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April 29, 2000
Kolar gold mine workers appeal to PM, seek longer lease of life for mine
Faced with imminent closure, workers of country's oldest and deepest gold mine have appealed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to intervene and allow the mine to diversify its activities.
Bharat Gold Mines Limited, or BGML, which began its operations in 1880, now has grown into a city -- Kolar Gold Fields, or KGF, with a population of 200,000.
The KGF, locally known as Bangarapet (city of gold) is being mined in and around 50 km range.
The mine has also many firsts with Asia's first hydropower station Shivanasamudra built in 1902 mainly to supply electricity for mining operations.
The employees have been housed in the mine area with hospitals, and various engineering, medical and dental colleges in its vicinity.
This colony has hardly seen any labour unrest, says V Venkatesh, former Lok Sabha member from that area who is campaigning to keeping the mines alive.
The Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction, or BIFR, which considered the issue of closure had computed that the BGML had sustained a loss of Rs 300 million because of the discriminatory price policy adopted by the government.
"We request your good self to intervene and bring out the company from the clutches of the BIFR," said the workers in their memorandum to Vajpayee said.
The memorandum said the Nandidurg workshop in KGF was already manufacturing railway wagons with a turnover of Rs 7 billion. "Production of wagons or containers was neither complicated nor tedious," the workers said.
The Champion Reef workshop, the workers said had all the facility to develop itself as a wagon and coach service centre and it could be converted into a workshop within a few months whose project report was submitted to railways.
The workers said BGML had produced Rs 700 billion worth gold for the country, but did not get good value for its produce because of discriminatory price fixing by the government.
Also, gold production received the least attention from the planners, they said.
The company could sustain for at least another 50 years as there was still scope for striking rich at untapped mines in the nearly 1,400-km long tunnel, they said.
The workers delegation also made representations to several ruling and opposition party leaders including Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and Petroleum Minister Ram Naik seeking their help for the cause.
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