Prez gives away National Safety Awards (Mines)

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New Delhi, May 6 (UNI) President Pratibha Patil today gave away the National Safety Awards (Mines) for 2004, 2005 and 2006, as tokens of appreciation and recognition by the nation for extraordinary performance of those in the area of mine safety.

While presenting the awards, instituted by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment in the year 1983, Ms Patil called upon mining operators to exploit the country's potential in minerals, as it is important that appropriate mining technologies are deployed to ensure scientific extraction and economic utilisation.

Minerals are a valuable natural resource, providing the vital raw materials for infrastructure, capital goods and basic industries. The extraction and management of minerals have to be integrated into the overall strategy of any country's economic development.

At present, the mineral sector contributes around 3.5 per cent of our national GDP and provides direct employment to over one million on a daily average basis.

''We should further aspire to expand the value chains of our key minerals in order to leverage our natural resources for faster economic development,'' she added.

Today, the three most important challenges confronting the mining industry in India are the search for suitable and sustainable technology for exploration, exploitation and value addition to the mineral resources; protecting the ecosystem and; improvement of health and safety aspects at work.

''These challenges need to be addressed in a constructive and innovative manner, for which there is a need for investment of a substantive nature. The private sector should be encouraged to participate in it progressively, for which appropriate policy initiatives may be taken,'' the President said.

In this context, it is necessary to promote research and development in minerals and to simultaneously establish appropriate educational and training facilities for human resources development to meet the manpower requirements of the mineral industry.

A globalised world demands competitive and efficient functioning.

This has resulted in the need for a new work culture and business environment in the mining sector. As mine operators look at ways and means to improve efficiency and cut costs, workers' safety measures should also receive greater consideration. It is necessary that the mining industry adequately discharges its ''social responsibility''.

Mining is, and always has been, a hazardous occupation. The twin concepts of ''self-regulation'' and ''workers' participation'' in Safety Management have proved to be useful and have contributed to a decline in the fatality rates. Participation and cooperation of mine workers, as important stakeholders, in formulating safety measures must be secured.

Delineation of rules and procedures to be followed by employees, responsibilities of employers, along with preventive and protective measures at the mines are important.

Ms Patil urged that steps should also be taken to minimise the adverse impact of mining on the health of workers and the surrounding population. Living conditions of coal miners can be improved by providing and improving basic facilities such as housing, water supply, medical care and education.

Stressing the need for women engagement in the mining sector, the President said they should get their due share and gender-sensitive approaches should be adopted towards this end.

UNI BBS SBC AS1711

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