Day after Naxal attack, walk in and out of India’s biggest iron ore mine

FP

A day after Maoists killed six CISF personnel and a driver inside the biggest iron ore mining facility in the country, the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) complex here remained unguarded.

Locals dropped in, "examined" the damaged Bolero, went through belongings of the deceased, noted the bullet marks and clicked photographs and made video films, even picking up the occasional empty shells. Some even went down the tiny forest trail that disappeared into Bailadila hills — from where the Maoists came, attacked the cops and slipped away — despite this being a designated "Protected Area".

This explains why despite the presence of around 550 well-armed CISF men to guard the NMDC installation, Maoists met with zero resistance when they struck at the complex around 9 pm Sunday, in the second such attack here. The ambush on the CISF patrolling team was on a well-frequented road, with the mine office a mere 10 metres away. Nearly 200 employees are present here at any point of time and a CISF unit is posted on a hill just above the spot.

Together with a facility in neighbouring Bacheli, the Kirandul installation produces over 25 million tonnes of iron ore per year, followed by the NMDC facility in Bellary with a mere 5 million tonnes. Bailadila hills have 14 proven iron ore deposits, all world-class. NMDC has mining permit for only five, with the remaining yet to be given on lease. This brings it in direct conflict with the Maoists, who have repeatedly opposed mining in the region.

Just an hour after the Kirandul attack last night, the Naxalites in fact struck again, targeting a CISF camp about a kilometre away. While no one was injured in this incident, several rounds of fire were exchanged.

In the attack on the NMDC complex, the Maoists took away four AK-47s, two INSAS rifles, 840 bullets, one hand-grenade, three walkie-talkie sets, two searchlights and six bulletproof jackets, while disfiguring the dead bodies with an axe.

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