THE MINES ACT-1952
The Mines Act, 1952 contains provisions for measures relating to the health, safety and welfare of workers in the coal, metalliferous and oil mines. According to the Act,the term ‘mine’ means “any excavation where any operation for the purpose of searching for or obtaining minerals has been or is being carried on and includes all borings, bore holes, oil wells and accessory crude conditioning plants, shafts, opencast workings, conveyors or aerial ropeways, planes, machinery works, railways, tramways , slidings, workshops, power stations, etc. or any premises connected with mining operations and near or in the mining area”.The Act prescribes the duties of the owner to manage mines and mining operation and the health and safety in mines. It also prescribes the number of working hours in mines, the minimum wage rates, and other related matters.
The Act is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS). DGMS is the Indian Government regulatory agency for safety in mines and oil-fields. It conducts inspections and inquiries, issues competency tests for the purpose of appointment to various posts in the mines, organises seminars/conferences on various aspects of safety of workers. The mission of DGMS is to reduce the risk of occupational diseases and injury to persons employed in mines and to continually improve safety and health standards, practices and performance in the mining industry.
The history of safety legislation for Indian Mining Industry can be traced back as follows-
The first concrete proposal for the inspection and regulation of mining operations in India came in 1890 from the Secretary of State Lord Cross and Mr. James Grundy was the first Inspector of Mines appointed by the Government of India. He worked within the organization of Geological Survey of India and his duty was to inspect mines and to make recommendations on the type of regulations needed. Mr. Grundy in his first report submitted to the then Director of Geological Survey of India stressed the need for passing mines regulations act which would amongst other things provide for the establishment of special rules having legal standing as the Act itself. Briefly the act was to provide for notices of opening etc. of mines and of accidents, minimum age for boys and girls employed underground, first aid, management and supervision and safety matters, special rules for coal and other minerals were to provide for additional safety matters including report of inspection of all parts of mines and machinery. In 1895 Government of India appointed a Committee to frame general rules applicable to mines or groups of mines and to specify the heads on which legislation was desirable and the provisions which were made under each of the heads. The Committee submitted its report in 1896. In 1897 a big disaster occurred in the Kolar Goldfield in which 52 persons were killed in a shaft accident. In 1899 in Khost Coal Mine in Baluchistan (now in Pakistan) a mine fire occurred which caused the death of 47 persons.
The finalisation of the mining legislation was therefore expedited and the Mines Act was enacted in 1901 and also brought in force the same year. The Mines Act which came in force in 1901 covered all minerals worked up to the depth of over 6 m. The main features of this Act were-
- Inspectors were empowered to enter and inspect mines, and to enquire into accidents,
- The employment of competent managers in mines was required. Managers Competency Certificates were instituted,
- The Government was empowered to frame rules, etc. for regulating work in the mines,
- Penalties were prescribed for contravention of its various provisions.
The Act of 1901 was amended in 1910 and again in 1914.
Further progress of mining technology called for newer safety legislations and development of newer mining technologies and safety legislations proceeded simultaneously.
By 1922 it was felt necessary to re-enact the Mines Act and it was re-enacted in 1923. The Indian Mines Act, 1923, applied to British India only. There were 49 sections of this Act, six of which were concerned with the appointment, functions and powers of the Inspectorate. Four sections relate to the formation and activities of Mining Boards and Committees, while three sections refer to the duties and responsibilities of owners, agents and managers. The health and safety of workers were provided for in six sections of the Act and provision is made for hours of work and limitation of employment. The powers of the Central Government to make regulations and of the Provincial Governments to make rules were laid down and penalties and procedure were embodied in the Act.
Indian Coal and Metalliferous Mines Regulations were formulated under Section 29 of the Indian Mines Act, 1923, and gazetted in the year 1926. These regulations were prescribed for the safe working of mines and for the submission of the various notices to the District Magistrate and the Chief Inspector of Mines.
Rules for Coal and Metalliferous Mines were made under Section 30 of the Indian Mines Act by the various Provincial Governments. These rules provide for:-
- Sanitary and Health provisions;
- Ambulance, First-Aid and Rescue work;
- Registration of work-persons;
- Safety of surface ;
- Abandonment of mines;
- Inquiry in the case of accidents ;
- Certificates of fitness for employment underground of persons who have not completed 17 years of age.
Bye-laws made under section 32 of the Indian Mines Act were framed by the owner, agent or manager of a mine with the approval of the Chief Inspector of Mines or an Inspector for the control and guidance of the persons acting in the management of, or employed in, the mine, to prevent accidents and to provide for the safety, convenience and discipline of the persons employed in the mine.
For the administration of the requirements of the Indian Mines Act the following staff were employed:-
- One – Chief Inspector of Mines.
- Three – Inspectors of Mines.
- Four – Junior Inspectors of Mines.
- One – Electric Inspector of Mines.
- One – Assistant Inspector of Mines.
Every mine was required to be under the supervision of a manager who had the prescribed qualifications, and who was held responsible for the control, management and direction of the mine, and the owner or agent of every mine was required to appoint himself or some other person having such qualifications to be manager of the mine.
The owner, agent or manager of every mine was responsible that all operations carried on in connection therewith were conducted in accordance with the provisions of the Act and of the regulations, rules and bye-laws and of any orders made thereunder
The following mines were worked in British India and were regulated by the Indian Mines Act-1923 :-
Coal, iron-ore, manganese ore, gold, chromite ore, copper ore, mica, salt, magnesite, steatite, slate, limestone, stone, sand-stone, fire- clay, china clay, clay, barytes, asbestos, ochre, kaolin, gypsum, beryl, graphite, bauxite, felspar, kyanite and tantalite.
The Mines Act-1923 was amended successfully in 1925, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1940 and 1946. In spite of its several amendments, the Act of 1923 was deficient in many respects. Some of the deficiencies were as follows:-
- Mine workshops were subject to the Factories Act-1948 which was administered by the State Government. Fitters, Electricians etc. employed in such workshops frequently worked for a part of the shift in the workings of the mine and when so employed, were logically governed by the Mines Act. Thus the same person at different times during the working shift were subject to two different Acts administered by two different authorities.
- Labour welfare provisions in mines were found to be inadequate. Additional measures were called for to bring about an improvement in the standard of living of mine workers.
- The Factories Act was amended in 1946 reducing the working hours. Therefore the Mines Act also had to be revised to bring it in conformity with the Factories Act.
- Provisions regarding holidays with pay and monetary relief during sickness had to be incorporated.
To remove these defects and deficiencies the Mines Act was re-enacted in 1952 and was brought into force from 1 st July 1952. The Act was amended in 1959 and 1983 to bring in force some new provisions.