Rio Tinto has published its first sustainable development report for the Bunder diamond project in Madhya Pradesh, India.
First discovered in 2004, the Bunder project is expected to commence commercial production of diamonds in 2016. Rio Tinto will have spent the 12-year time frame until production begins working with the local communities in Madhya Pradesh, attempting to determine how it can improve their economic opportunities and quality of life. According to the integrated miner, the Bunder project's focus on the surrounding communities has set new standards for mine development in India.
There are currently 420 people employed in the Bunder project, with approximately 80 percent hailing from Madhya Pradesh. Rio Tinto says it expects this figure to double during the construction phase, and further believes that hundreds of other jobs will be required over time.
According to Dr Nik Senapati, Managing Director of Rio Tinto in India, the sustainable development report shows that the Madhya Pradesh region "presents many challenges but also enormous scope for positive change." Senapati further adds that Rio Tinto's initiatives in "education, training, employment, health and sustainable agricultural practices are starting to make an impact."
Initially focusing on the needs of local women and children, Rio Tinto's social and community work in the vicinity of the Bunder project has since expanded, ranging across various levels and issues. For its significant work in the area, Rio Tinto received the 2010-2011 Sitaram Rungta Social Awareness Award, bestowed by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI).
Tarun Malkani, Chief Operating Officer India for Rio Tinto's diamonds business, explains that the Bunder project is no different from Rio Tinto's other diamond operations in Canada, Australia and Zimbabwe. According to Malkani, Rio Tinto is aware that "significant obligations are attached to accessing land for mining purposes."