A few kilometres inland from the clichéd beaches and bustling restaurants of Goa, a vast industrial landscape unfolds. The greens and blues give way to shades of brown spread over dusty, terraced hills. And the sounds of wind and water are replaced by the mechanized hum of machines.
“Iron ore mining is not something people associate with Goa,” says photographer Tom Parker, who spent a few months this year photographing mining operations in the state. But if you look around, you would see signs of it— from enormous dumper trucks to ore-laden barges—almost everywhere.
It is, quite contrary to expectation, the largest economic activity in Goa, bringing in revenue of at least Rs2,000 crore a year. The annual production is 30 million tonnes, most of which is exported, and it accounts for around half of India’s iron ore exports.
Click here to view a slideshow of photographs of iron ore mining in Goa
Seventy-six iron ore mines of various companies, of which Sesa Goa Ltd and Fomento are the largest, are scattered over an area of 700 sq. km in the Bicholim, Sanguem and Satari talukas. All of them are opencast, created by carving entire hillsides into giant terraces that extend in all directions. The mining season starts after the monsoon in October and extends to mid-May.
The process is highly mechanized, employing a little more than 4,000 people, mostly from the coastal belts of West Bengal and Orissa. The state’s ore is low-grade, and requires extensive cleaning and sorting before it is transported to piers on rivers such as the Mandovi and Zuari. A network of barges then transports it to ships— largely Chinese, Japanese and Korean—that are anchored 5km out at sea since they’re too large for most Goan ports.
The sheer size and scale of the industry is spectacular. It also brings it a lot of criticism. But, says Parker, his goal was only to document this surprising industrial facet of Goa, “it’s for people to interpret the photographs”.
Photographs by Tom Parker
Tom Parker has photographed a range of industries across India in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry. His book, This is Modern India, will be launched in January. For more information on his book, go to www.thisismodernindia.com