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A social audit of quarries in the offing
October, 27th 2009

After the social audit of NREGA, it is time for a social audit of various stones quarries. This is exactly what various stakeholders of the stone quarry sector have in mind before embarking on a code of conduct for the industry.

The initiative comes in the wake of increasing refusal by many countries, especially the Dutch, in buying stones that are non-compliant to what is being termed as ethical mining.

"This is a process that began nearly two or three years ago following a keenness by the European consumer to buy only those stones which have been mined from areas where there is no child labour, where there is no discrimination, wages are as per certain norms and a legal binding exists between the employer and the employee," says Dr Bobby Joseph, consultant, Audit Training and Quality, Fair Wear Foundation, Amsterdam.

According to Joseph, who chaired a seminar on Sustainable Natural Stone held in Delhi recently, "though the real audit will take some more time, there would be trial runs which would be an essential part for framing the code of conduct for the industry to ensure social compliance."

The workshop saw stakeholders including importers, exporters, activists in the mining sector, contractors, environmentalists and a quarry owner participate in it.

"So long, the process was very slow but now we have picked up pace and we hope to frame up the code of conduct by early next year which will be preceded by the trial social audits of some mines," he adds.

The audit will check the mines for all of the above norms and certify as to whether they are socially compliant or not. However, most of these audits will be effective to mines that are involved mainly in exporting stones as the activists hope to build pressure from the exporter lobby on the quarry owner for an audit.

"But those supplying stones locally might give the audit a miss as many of them do not adhere to the norms especially when it comes to issues like health check of the worker, specific working hours and payment of what we call a minimum living wage and not just minimum wage," said a participant at the seminar.

The social audit of mine quarries would have lot of significance in the state as Rajasthan is the mainstay of the Indian stone industry. It has over 90% of the country's marble, sandstone and flaggy limestone deposits along with a major share of granite and slate deposits.

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