For all the controversy surrounding the Kudremukh mines, former employees remember them fondly
The mines at Kudremukh may be closed now, but they are certainly alive in the rich memories of those who were once employed by the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd. (KIOCL) during its prime. Nestled between busy roads that lead to Koramangala lies Kudremukh colony, a small residential area of about 110 houses. Built by the Kudremukh Employee Housing Society, the colony is now occupied mostly by retired KIOCL employees who were allotted the houses during their employment.
President of the housing society B.K. Sinha says that there are about 150 families living in the colony. “A lot of the employees, now retired, live here. Some have rented out their houses, while others have sold theirs and moved elsewhere.”
Founded in 1976, KIOCL had to stop all mining activities in 2005 based on a Supreme Court directive, after a long battle with environmentalists.
Andrea Pereira, theatre person and activist, who was part of a performance at the colony highlighting damage to water bodies because of mining, was surprised at how much resistance there was to the idea that mining was detrimental to the environment.
“One family I spoke to, which had relocated to Bangalore after working for several years in Kudremukh, saw mining as something essential for development, and did not believe that the mining activities at Kudremukh had an adverse effect on the environment there,” she says.
T.V. Bashyam, who worked in Kudremukh, claims that there were plenty of precautions in place to ensure that there were no adverse effects on the environment, and added that the right balance has to be struck — that development and progress must not be obstructed, but enough must be done to protect the environment.
K.C. Balasubramanyam, who worked in KIOCL for 27 years, agrees with this line of thought, as does his wife Chandrika, who taught science for 17 years at a school there. Balasubramanyam was with the project right from its initial stages, and also oversaw the closure of the mines. “It was very hard to digest, we had all grown very attached,” he said, adding ruefully that all the heavy equipment worth crores is now corroded, and the quarters almost in ruins.
Bashyam, who worked in Kudremukh for 21 years, reminisces fondly about life there. “The experience was terrific. Life at the mining site was exciting, almost an adventure,” he says, recalling the growth of the company over the years.
Even as they wistfully recall the life they used to have, these retired employees are quite content living in the peaceful colony in the company of former colleagues, allowing them frequent visits to the past they enjoyed so much.