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Mining being considered one of the most hazardous profession, health of miners has always been centre of attention of the administrators and producers of minerals. Mining in India has been going since pre-historic times and history of mining of Zinc and Copper can be traced back to almost 6000 years as is evident from the archeological findings in Zawar, Dariban, Khetari, etc. Historians believe that large scale mining for minerals in India started during the reign of Mauryan dynasty. It was known for years that mine workers had predilection for development of lung diseases and needed special care. Kautilya in his Arthashastra (as early as 400 BC), while making the budget of the state mentions that a separate allocation for miners’ health is required because miners suffer from group of special diseases attributed to their occupation and it is necessary to take care of them.

In recent times, health of the miners became focus of attention after mining of gold started in India at Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka. Occurrence of Silicosis was first reported in India by C Krishnaswami Rao in the year 1934 from Kolar Gold Fields. The historic study on Silicosis (1940 to 1946) by Dr. Anthony Caplan and others consisting of 7643 workers of Kolar Gold Fields detected 3472 workers suffering from Silicosis. The study remains one of the most pioneering work in the field of dust diseases and “Caplan Syndrome” was first described during this study. The study also formed basis for Mysore Silicosis Rules and other legislations relating to detection and compensation of occupational dust diseases in India.

In the year 1949, Dr. H. H. Watson, an expert in the field of dust investigation from Pneumoconiosis Research Unit of Medical Research Council, Cardiff U.K., was invited to visit Kolar Gold Fields to investigate dust concentration in the underground mines and suggest methods of dust sampling and dust control. Since then the Kolar Gold Fields has maintained records of comprehensive dust surveys till its closure.

First time in 1978, PIACT Mission of ILO recommended that experience and expertise developed at Kolar Gold Fields over the years could be of great help in improving health of the miners in India and could serve as a nucleus and provide strong base for development of industry based Institution extending country-wide services in the mining sector.

In May 1987, Shri. B K Rao, the then Secretary, Ministry of Steel and Mines, Govt. of India, along with Prof. M.G.K. Menon, the then Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister, visited the Kolar Gold Fields and observed the work done on occupational lung diseases arising out of gold mining. This visit laid the foundation of the concept of National Institute of Miners’ Health. The Secretary, Steel & Mines, Govt. of India, recorded in his remarks “The expertise that has been developed by decades of continuous scientific work should not be lost for the medical research in this country by the planned phasing out of Kolar Gold Mines. It could be achieved only by integrating the main stream of research for occupational diseases going on in this country and hence the National Institute of occupational diseases connected with mining industry could be established, which could become a premier institution dealing with research on occupational diseases connected with mining industry”.

After several high level meeting at various forums, and with rich heritage of work relating to dust and other occupational diseases carried out at Kolar Gold Fields, the Government of India resolved for the formation of National Institute of Miners’ Health at Kolar Gold Fields.

The President of India approved the formation of National Institute of Miners’ Health on 11th May 1989 and formally the Institute was registered under Karnataka Societies Registration Act as an “Autonomous Body” on 21st February 1990. Since then NIMH is in the service of mining industry and the nation and has carved a niche in the field of miners’ health. With inauguration of its Central Laboratory at JNARDDC Campus, Nagpur, the Institute shifted most of its functional units to new campus though it maintains the registered office at Kolar Gold Fields.

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