Mara - the land of river Mara that remains witness, to the Great Migration of animal herds from Massai mara in Kenya, to the plains of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The lush green land, beautiful landscape, wide range of flora and fauna ornating the earth and hard built and hard working people.
I had the chance to visit this land for providing training to employees working at North Mara Gold Mines over the previous week.
The Mine area is spread over many square kilometers. I also went to one of the mining site -the open pit made by cutting into hard granite rock- a huge inverted cone like structure about 125 meters deep, that continues to grow deeper.
On average the gold content in the ore is about 5 ppm (parts per million) so to produce 5 tons of gold, one million tonnes of rock ore needs to be processed. The processing operation includes blasting by dynamite, drilling, hauling and transportation, cleaning of ore by cyanide based chemicals and use of huge quantities of water.
The mines produce almost 100 tonnes of gold per year. Just for information China and Russia are presently the top most gold producers at about 450 and 275 tonnes per year respectively.
In the process of teaching I learned about issues of, disputes over the use of land with villagers, illegal mining, raids by local intruders in large numbers that could be multiples of hundred at times (the largest estimated to constitute about 800 men) to rob the ore for gold.
In addition to a huge impact on the environment, including the loss of farm land, flora and fauna, disturbance in earth crust and high degree of water, land and air pollution- the gold mining has caused severe change in life and minds of locals. The men leaving farming, women leaving household, students leaving classes and small children- all are trying to scavange the traces of gold from stones.
Once a rich agriculture based economy and a society of hardworking people, around the mining area, it has now largely turned into herds of gold robbing, hunting and scavanging people- over a period of two decades.
I am not very sure if the same would apply to all communities living around gold mines across the globe, but the process of producing gold remains same and the effects on environment could be similar.
I recall the episode from story of King Parikshit the grandson of Pandavas about onset of Kaliyug. He allowed Kali to reside in 5 places of which, one was the Gold and eventually, Kali spread its effect through gold to create a scociety thay had no values but only lust ans greed- after seeing this in person, and recalling various facts of the history including the conquest and demolition of Mayans by Europeans, repeated raids on India and various others facts of history- I could understand as to what the story meant.
We Indians specially pride in holding gold, as it forms a major constituent of family wealth traditionally. All our lust and greed (for gold) is taking our beautiful planet and value system to a point of collapse. Is it really worth?
In next 15 to 20 years, the mine will complete its life and be closed as planned. The pit will be filled and trees will grow back in a decade or two, but, what would become of the people whose three generations would have passed by then, living their lives on a wrong foundation.
Talking of sustenable growth, have we also considered the socio-economic and socio-cultutal impacts that our zeal for development is causing. Is there a recourse for a society who have lost their roots?
Time only will tell, but for now I pray for them, and pray for the planet earth our mother, who we disgrace and abuse at every opportunity without a hint of remorse!
Had captured a few frames of the beautiful land and river that I add here alongwith pictures of some other mine (for perspective) those are identical to what I saw here.
Enjoy as they last!