Metal crushing, a major business enterprise
Saturday, 26 May 2012 - 10:24 AM SL Time
Share On Facebook
The metal crushing industry has become a major business enterprise. According to the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau, over 1,000 metal quarries are located in many parts of the country. Many of them are in Kurunegala, Ratnapura, Gampaha, Kalutara, Homagama, Avissawella, Galle, Kaduwela, Koratota and Hanwella areas.
Statistics reveal that nearly 25,000 families were involved in the industry.
Although metal was a necessary component in industry, workers say that no proper recognition has been granted by the Government to the industry. However, workers, employed in metal quarries say that a separate authority should be established to recognise the industry to protect their jobs and other employment rights. They say State authorities have been set up to protect the gem, coal, mineral sands and graphite industries, but the metal quarry industry has been ignored.
Sri Lanka`s metal crushing industry has a history of nearly 2,000 years, from the time of the Veddah`s. The Veddahs lived near large rocks. They used metal to make weapons. The walls of their caves were constructed with large boulders. The roofs were made of metal slabs. Fire which was needed at that time was obtained by rubbing metal slabs.
Abeetha Perera Anil Peiris
History also says that metal quarries were used by our ancient kings to lay foundations to their castles and also to construct lakes. They also used metal to make statues of kings and devas.
Sri Lanka`s metal crushing industry has shown a significant improvement in the last 30 years due to the construction of buildings, highways, lakes and houses. The industry is carried out in all provinces excluding the Northern and Eastern Provinces where metal quarries are hardly found.
The Sunday Observer last week visited the sites of several metal quarries at Hokandara, Aturugiriya, Koratota, Habarakada, Kaduwela, Homagama, Kottawa, Hanwella and Avissawella to meet owners and also workers involved in the metal crushing industry.
Although there are nearly 1,000 metal quarries in the country, the majority of them are in Kaduwela, Aturugiriya and Hanwella areas.
Metal quarries are regularly supervised by area Divisional Secretariats under the guidance of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB).
Director General, GSMB, Anil Peiris said that in addition to metal quarries, representatives from the GSMB regularly supervise other chemical element sites such as gem, graphite and mineral sands.
We also provide them with necessary guidelines to maintain quarries and look into the welfare of workers.
He said metal quarries are graded into three categories A, B and C.
He said `A` scale metal quarries are equipped with necessary equipment and small scale metal quarries are graded into the `C ` category.
`Out of nearly 1,000 metal quarries in the country, sixty are not operated in a proper manner,`
He said the arranging of the blasting face is very important and some quarry owners do not arrange it in a proper manner and when blasting takes place, it could cause injuries to workers as well as residents living in the surrounding areas.
He urged owners of metal quarries to provide necessary safety equipment such as helmets and boots so that workers do not face injuries.
He said due to non provision of necessary safety equipment to workers at least five to ten accidental deaths take place annually.
He said in addition to salaries, owners of metal quarries should provide workers with medical benefits and insurance facilities.
`If owners of metal quarries do not maintain their workplace , the GSMB has the authority to take stern action against such quarry owners.`
A longstanding metal quarry owner and Chairman of W.A. Perera and Co. Ltd., Hokandara, Ariyaratna Perera said his father W.A. Perera started the industry in 1942 and he took over the business thereafter. `I have two other large scale metal quarries in Welipillawa and Aturugiriya and we have a workforce of 280.`
He said he will, handover the Management of the business to his son Abeetha who is also a Director of the company and employed in England.
Ariyaratna said he provides necessary safety equipment to the workers. He said special medical units have been set up in all quarry sites to provide assistance in emergencies.
Director, Abeetha Perera said his intention is to seek ISO recognition for the industry.
Ariyaratna said that the metal component was necessary to construct buildings, houses and other constructions and this industry should be given due recognition by the Government for the benefit of owners, workers and about 25,000 families who depend on the industry.
He said educational institutions should be established to train metal crushers, drillers, blasters, heavy machine operators, quarry managers and crushing operators.
After finishing the operations, metal quarries could be utilised for other purposes such as recycling polythene, plastics, bottles, garbage and also as a dumping grounds.
Abeetha said he has a plan to convert metal dust into sand which could be used for building construction and sand which is environmental friendly could be used like sand taken from rivers and lakes.
A father of four, Sunil Dayananda of Kaduwela said he has been in the metal crushing industry for the last 30 years and proposed the Government to register metal quarries in the country, so that quarry owners could obtain loans from banks to expand their industry.
He urged the Government to purchase metal from their metal quarries and not only from large scale manufacturers.
Nimal Sedara of Homagama said he has been in the metal quarry industry for the past 20 years and was getting a small income because only small scale house builders purchased metal from them.
He too urged authorities to purchase metal from them and not only from large scale suppliers. He said many Government orders were only given to large scale metal quarry owners and sought government assistance for the development of the industry.