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Making A Difference

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For the owners of the mines, though, this is boom-time. China’s insatiable demand for iron ore has driven the price of the mineral up by a staggering 800 per cent in the past few years, resulting in fantastic profits for the owners, who often cruise through Hospet in luxury automobiles with suitcases laden with cash.

It’s not as though the owners of MSPL — an iron ore mining company belonging to the Baldota group — only bask in luxury. What they are also interested in is ensuring that their workers are safe and happy, their children well looked after, and that the environment around them is as habitable as possible. These, however, seem alien practices amongst most other mining companies in the region.


MSPL has improved the life of its mine workers tremendously

Total income: Rs 1,494.6 cr
Profit: Rs 580 cr
Money spent on CSR: 0.20% of total income

Key CSR project and its achievements: MSPL diversified into generating Green Power through wind energy back in 1980.
Environment foot print: As part of its afforestation initiative, it has planted 1.7mn trees and transformed 240 hectares of mining terrain into lush green landscape.

Community development: Has adopted 5 villages close by where less than 10% of houses don’t have sanitation facilities and poor medical facilities.

Corporate governance: Employees are encouraged to report any misconduct, illegal activity, fraud or abuse of company assets.

Mainstreaming: KRAs of a team of people ensure that CSR and community development activities take place without any lag or lapse.

(All figures for FY 2006-2007)

Miners at MSPL’s mines receive fresh drinking water piped into on-site tanks from the Tungabhadra river. Large tankers continually spray the ground with water to settle the ubiquitous, choking dust so that the employees can breathe easy. The company has also built 210 housing units with piped water for their labourers so that they don’t have to live in dilapidated thatched huts or flimsy tents, which is the norm in the area.

Since last year, the company has also provided its entire staff and their families with that rare benefit that many white collar employees in India are bereft of, namely health insurance. “We have not only improved their personal hygiene but also created a sense of loyalty to the company,” says Chairman Narendra kumar Baldota. Baldota also claims that MPSL’s workers are paid way above what competitors dole out and were given 100 per cent bonuses last year.

Naturally, the welfare of the children of its own workforce has been equally important for MSPL. The company has built its own school up to the 4th standard, after which these children graduate to other schools in nearby towns, such as Danapur. “In fact, some of these kids have come back to us after completing technical courses and have been employed at a level higher than their parents,” says Baldota. Setting an example, Baldota’s own sons, and his grandchildren, went to the same school.

Environmentally Sound
It is rare for a mining company to show keen interest in environmental-friendly initiatives. MSPL has, however, received numerous accolades for its work in trying to reverse the debilitating effect of mining operations. The company has planted close to 1.7 million trees in and around its mines to balance the ecological impact of the mining activities.

“Miners are recklessly destroying the entire area and their only motive is to make money,” says Suresh Heblikar, well-known environmentalist, film-maker and local head of ‘EcoWatch’. “Not much intervention has happened, not even from the government’s side. Unless other companies follow the lead of the Baldotas, very soon the whole area will be destroyed beyond repair,” he says.

In 2004, MSPL received the prestigious Indira Priyadarshini Vriksha Mitra Award from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for its pioneering work in the field of afforestation and wastelands development.

The company is also working towards effective utilisation of waste produced from their mining operations. In line with its ‘zero waste mining’ philosophy, the company has developed a product called ‘Sulpha Sponge’, which helps remove impurities from water as well as odour from sewage, and acts as an excellent scavenger of hydrogen sulphide. Another eco-friendly move by MSPL is a switch from using roads for iron-ore transportation to rail. This strategy has both reduced the dependence on fossil fuel and cut down on vehicular pollution. “We are also working towards enhancing our loading and unloading speed by 50 per cent to avoid engine idling time,” says H.K. Ramesh, assistant general manager of CSR at MSPL.

labourers are provided with
food, safe drinking water,
remuneration, house,
insurance and medical

Perhaps MSPL’s most significant investment, other than in its employees, is on generating clean, eco-friendly wind energy. According to the Directory of Indian Wind Power published by Consolidated Energy Consultants, the company has the largest installed wind power generation capacity in India as on 31 March 2007. The company first invested in wind energy way back in the 1980s, but the investments and returns were not very favourable then. However, in 2000 it put up its first windmill farm in Satara in Maharashtra. Now MSPL has about 200 MW of installed capacity and it hopes to increase that to about 400 MW by 2010.

MSPL’s CSR efforts have also spread to the communities nearby — most of them poor and desperately short of resources. The company set up a much needed blood bank in Hospet five years ago. That has saved many lives, since the nearest repository for blood in case of an emergency is a good two-hour drive away. Similarly, its eye clinic has been a huge boon, particularly the elderly rural poor around Hospet who suffer from chronic eye problems. Similarly, MSPL has also tried to raise the generally low quality of education in the area. B.M.S. Mruthunjaya, headmaster of the local Danapur School, says that children’s education in the region was in a deplorable state. “There were no chairs or tables for teachers or students,” he says. “All the children sat on the floor.” MSPL changed all that.

In an industry that has shown callous disregard for its workers, apathy for the community in which it exists and an equal amount of indifference to the environment that it has ravaged, MSPL has proved itself as a company with a conscience and a will to act.

(Businessworld issue 20-26 May 2008)