Workers at the Hutti Gold Mines in Lingasugur in Raichur protested during the visit of Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani on Friday. Workers raised alarm about the working condition in the mines while some held up their torn boots to emphasise their anger at the minister.
"We are here because there is no one to listen to us even when workers die. We have not had equipment like boots changed in two years," a worker told reporters during Murugesh Nirani's visit to the mines.
The protesting employees work underground in the gold mines and are demanding that officials answer their calls for updated safety equipment like helmets and boots, and also for improved medical facilities.
The protest comes at a time the Karnataka government is planning to double the production of gold at the mines. Hutti Gold Mines is managed by the Hutti Gold Mines Company Limited (HGML). "Currently, HGML is producing 1,700 kg per annum. Within 18 months, the plan is to increase gold production to 5,000 kg per annum," Murugesh Nirani told reporters earlier this month.
The minister visited the gold mines on Friday and directed officials to conduct a thorough inspection and recover illegally hoarded explosive materials. This was in the wake of the accidental blast in a quarry site in Chikkaballapura district, the second such incident in Karnataka in the last month.
"Visited Hutti Gold Mines in Raichur dist today. Collected information on gold mining activities and safety precautions from officials inside a mining shaft. Overall it was a new experience," said Nirani in a social media post.
The gold mines in Hutti is managed by the Karnataka government and is the only active gold mining operation in India. It is a profit-making public sector undertaking for the state. The mines in Hutti were previously held by the Nizam rulers of Hyderabad and later by the British.