The pioneering gold mining town in India, Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), has a fascinating history. Over two decades bridging the 19th and 20th centuries, a remote corner of the Old Mysore state’s people were transformed by a British company into a close-knit industrial community with special skills in mining at great depths.
By sheer doggedness, professionalism, perseverance and a bit of luck, John Taylor & Sons established a profitable and pioneering industry at KGF and the labour force ran to tens of thousands right up to the 1930s. For the poverty-stricken neighbourhood, jobs in the pits ensured regular meals and a place to stay.
The mines were nationalised in 1956 but closed 15 years ago, after losses due to inept management, wrong pricing policy and lack of investment in new exploration. The mines were allowed to be inundated by water.
Unlike a factory that can be locked for a few years and then reopened and put back into production after due dusting, oiling, checking of contacts and reconnection to a power source, an underground mine’s constant threat and nemesis is water. Whatever precious ore is still below the water is lost forever.
Politicians have suggested the water can be drained and used for irrigation in the parched land. Another hare-brained idea was to use the defunct shafts as landfills for Bengaluru’s waste. There’s talk about reopening / reviving the mines, especially after various courts ruled in favour of restarting mining around KGF.
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