MEASURES TO REDUCE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF GEM MINING
Sri Lanka has reasonable endowments of mineral resources in relation to its xizc. Gellis havebeen the most economically valuable resource accounting for more than 90(/' of all mineralexports in the country. Despite the relatively high economic and social benefits gem miningcause significant environment damages.
A field survey was conducted using a semi-structured questionnaire in selected assistantgovernment agent divisions of Rathnapura district during the period August 1998 toNovember 1998 to identify the environmental damages and possible practical measures torninirnise such problems. Discussions were held with officers involved In the gem miningindustry and miners under different mining categories. Wherever possible, information wasalso collected from direct observation and field surveys.
Results of the study revealed that several environmental impacts are obvious in theRathnapura district due to gem mining namely. natural soil erosion. sedimentation. waterpollution. removal of vcgctuuon cover, Ilooding. landslides. ground water depletion, riskand/or damage to wild life. reduction of irrigation efficiency, health problems such cl~malaria. reduction of potential of agricultural lands and other damages including crackingwalls of houses and mall made structures. Results also indicated that small and large scaleillegal mining is fairly widespread even in rivers despite regulatory measures. Licenseholders usually neglect the license rules to get high profit. Supervision (If mining activitiesis very low due to corruption in low enforcement agencies and lack of officers.
Modern techniques should be used in gem prospecting, fines and security deposits should beclfccuvcly used to rehabilitate abandoned gem pits, issue or licenses to defaulters should beavoided. license should be issued as early as possible before wasteful methods arc employedby illegal gem miners, digging too many pits in one place should be prohibited, propermanagement and monitoring must be maintained through careful planning, and participationof the local community to pressurisc all gem miners to rninimise environmental damageshave been ;;uggested as remedial measures.