Surface features, minerals and ethnical composition bring diversity in the region. The aboriginal inhabitants (Adivasis) are of Dravidian stock. They live mostly in the inaccessible densely forested mountain tops where they make meager living. Some aborigines living in the Bastar Plateau still maintain themselves by hunting and fishing, eating roots and gathering wild fruits.
The schists, gneisses and crystalline granitic rocks of the Archean Era covers large area of this region, in these rocks occur patches as well as large basins of sedimentary rocks bearing seams, as for example, in the Damodar and the Godavari valleys.
The plateau is crossed by hill ranges which are the eastern extensions of the Satpura Range in the north. East of Jabalpur Gap runs the Maikal Range which continues eastwards as the Korea Hills and the Hazaribagh Range. The Maikal Range rises to a height of 1,065 metres at Mt. Amarkantak formed by lava rocks. East of the Rihand the plateau is called Chota Nagpur. In its middle part where Chota Nagpur is more elevated it is called the Hazaribagh Range.
In general, the elevation of Maikal and Hazaribagh ranges varies from 610 to 915 metres. The Damodar and the Subarnarekha drain the eastern part of Chota Nagpur. The Eastern Ghats which run from northeast to south-west direction are higher but completely cut through by the Brahmani and the Mahanadi.
The lowland is formed mainly by the Upper Mahanadi Valley and is called Chhattisgarh. This is a plain and it is separated from the Wainganga Valley by low Khairagarh Plateau.
Much of the rain falls during the months from June to September varying from 120 to 165 cm. In the north, winter depressions cause a few centimetres of rainfall; in the south where these depressions have little influence winters are almost dry. May is the hottest month. Mean temperature of December, the coldest month of this region, varies from 18.2°C. To 20.0°C. And the hottest months of May varies from 32°C to 35°C.
Much of the hilly part of this region is covered with tropical wet deciduous or monsoon forest.
The Bastar-Orissa Hills are densely forested and as much as 72 percent of the surface of Bastar district is under forest. Nearly half of the Chotanagpur Plateau is covered with forest. Palamau district has 64 per cent of its surface under forest. Myrobalan, a source of tanning material, is collected chiefly for export. Lac, a valuable forest product and wild tusser silk cocoons are collected over a wide area especially in Chotanagpur.
Almost 90 per cent of the total raw lac produced in the country is obtained from this region. India is the principal producer and exporter of raw lac in the world. India produces about two-thirds of the total raw lac produced in the world and exports about nine-tenths of the total lac produced in the country.
Lac is manufactured by the secretion of a tiny insect, called the lac insect. The insect lives on the sap of certain trees-Kusam, palas, Khair, ghont, ber and a few others-known as host trees. The secretion is deposited on the branches of the host trees as thin crust which is removed after the lac insects die.
There are forested hills, deeply cut and eroded plateau and stony soil in this region which do not support extensive agriculture. Wainganga valley, Chhattisgarh, the middle Mahanadi and the Tel plains in Orissa, and the Valleys of the Sone, the Brahmani and the Baitarani are cultivated areas.
Durg, Raipur, Bilaspur and Raigarh districts of Chhattisgarh make up Chhattisgarh plain drained by upper Mahanadi. It also includes the northern fringe of Bastar district. No other area of this region has such a high proportion of the cultivated area to the total area. About 45 per cent of the surface is cultivated.
The middle Mahanadi and the Tel plains in western Orissa have only one-third of the land under cultivation. Irrigation from canals, tanks and wells is available in this region.
Rice is the principal crop and occupies 70 percent of the total cropped area.
In the Bastar-Orissa Hills about two-fifths of the land is under forests. Land under cultivation is about one-quarter of the surface and rice is the chief crop occupying about 50 per cent of the area.
Forest covers a little more than one-third of the surface of Chotanagpur. Rice is the dominant crop and occupies half of the total cropped area.
This region is highly and richly mineralised in India. There are good deposits of high-grade iron ore, manganese ore, copper ore, bauxite, mica, limestone and coal.
In this region iron ore reserve are very large and India ranks 5th in this regard.
This region has extensive deposits of high-grade iron ore which accounts for three-fourths of the total Indian iron ore reserves. As the ore is rich in iron content (60 per cent or above), it is profitable to exploit it. Singhbhum district in Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts in Orissa have large deposits of iron ore of superior quality with iron content, more than 60 per cent.
In Durg district of Chhatisgarh, the ore is very rich in iron content. Iron ore mines have been developed at Kiriburu (northern Orissa), Bailadila (Bastar district) and Daitari (Cuttack district) with a view to stepping up export of iron ore.
Thus Singhbhum, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Bastar and Durg are the important iron ore producing district of India.
In this region there are important ferro-alloy minerals like ores of Vanadium, Chromium, Nickel, Cobalt and Manganese.
Vanadium steels being very hard and tough are used for making springs, machine tools etc. and its Vanadium ore is found in Singhnbhum, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar. The ore of Chromium is mined in Cuttack, Keonjhar, and Dhenkanal districts of Orissa. Chromium resist corrosion and is used mainly for making stainless steel. Nickel ore occurs in Singhbhum and Cuttack district and Nickel makes steel elastic, tough and resistant to corrosion.
There is a rich deposits of manganese ore of good quality in this region. Extensive deposits of manganese ore are found at the western part of the region, comprising northern Nagpur district, southern Chindwara district, northern Bhandara district and Balaghat district. These four districts account for two-thirds of the total manganese ore produced in India. Singhbhum and Sundargarh district also produces manganese ores. Manganese ore occurs as pockets mostly in hill masses.
There is open cast mining of this ore. Generally more than 50 per cent of the ore produced is exported, mainly to the U.S.A., the U.K. and Germany, the major producers of steel in the world.
India ranks first in mica production and meets four-fifths of world demand of sheet mica. Mica stands very high temperature and is a bad conductor of electricity. These two properties of mica have made it important for the manufacture of electrical machinery and electrical appliances.
Mica is mined mainly along the northern fringe of the Bihar Plateau comprising northern part of Hazaribagh district and southern fringes of Gaya, Monghyr and Bhagalpur districts. Kodarma is the chief collecting, processing and trading centre of mica in the world. The region produces almost three-fourths of the total mica produced in India.
Mica occurs in the form sheets generally a few centimetres in thickness. It is mined in shallow open- cut and deep winding hole-like mines. Kolkata is the chief export port of Mica.
Coals accounts for almost half the value of all minerals produced. Some areas of this region sank slowly between faults in the Gondwana period. In these sinking depressions, coal layers alternating with river borne deposits were laid almost horizontally. The downward sinking of this stratum has preserved coal and the horizontal layer of the coal layers has made it easy to extract the coal.
Some of the seams which are now found mainly along the Damodar, the Mahanadi and the Godavari valleys have been exposed by river erosion. The coal-fields of the Damodar Valley run to the west penetrating into Palamau district. The Damodar Valley has good quality cooking and steam coals. Raniganj, Jharia and Bokaro are the chief coal-fields of this valley.
The Raniganj coal field which produces mainly steam coal is the eastern-most coal-field of the Damodar Valley. The Jharia coal-field, about 48 km. west of the Raniganj coal-field is an important coal-field of India. It is the only field of good quality cooking coal. This field provides cooking coal to all the steel plants of this region. The Bokaro coal field is located about 5 km west of the Jharia coal-field.
There is a coal field at Singrauli lying partly in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh and partly in the adjoining area of Madhya Pradesh. These mines are being developed with a view to providing coal to super thermal power stations being set up near this coal field.
Copper is the most important metal. It is important for electrical machinery and appliances such as transmission lines, electrical locomotives, motors, fans, dynamos, etc. It is also used for making copper pipes, brass and bronze alloys.
Copper metal is made at Ghatsila situated in the valley of the Subarnarekha in the southern part of Singhbhum district. Copper ore fairly rich in copper content is mined at a few nearby places, Mosabani and Rakha being the chief mining centres.
Dolomite which is used mainly as flux in the iron and steel industry is also found in this region. Sundargarh district situated in the north-western part of Orissa has a very large deposit of dolomite.
Singhbhum and Mayurbhanj district is important China clay producer which produce more than half of India’s China clay.
Bauxite the ore of aluminum is mined mainly in the Ranchi district of Jharkhand and Mandla Jabalpur, Bilaspur and Shehdol districts of Chhatisgarh.
A large quantity of bauxite is utilized for making alumina at Renukoot, Muri and Korba. Alumina is further used for the manufacture of alminium metal at Renukoot, Hirakud Dam and Korba.
The iron and steel and aluminum industries are chief industries besides transportation equipment, heavy machinery etc. Deposits of iron ore, coal, dolomites and manganese ore close to one another have favoured growth of various heavy industries.
Iron and Steel Industry:
There are two iron and steel works in Asansol in Raniganj coal field area which are at Burnpur and Hirapur.
The pig iron used for making these products is obtained from Burnpur. Coal is available from the nearby Raniganj and Jharia coal-fields and iron ore is brought from Gua mines situated about 285 km. away in the south-west in Singhbhum district. Iron ore is also obtained from Manoharpur, Ranspani and Barajamda. Dolomite used as flux is brought from Birmitpur quarries (in Sundargarh district of Orissa) situated at a distance of 327 km. in the south-west.
Tata Iron and Steel Company situated in Jamshedpur is one of the integrated iron and steel works in Asia. It is situated nearer to iron ore and dolomite deposits and away from the coal mines as compared with the steel works near Asansol.
Coal is supplied by the Jharia coal-field which is about 193 km. to the north and dolomite by Birmitpur and other quarries which are about 193 km. to the west-southwest of this steel town. Iron ores are brought from Badampahar and Sulaipat mines situated at a distance of 64 to 90 km. to the south.
In this way this steel centre is situated at an ideal location as regards its proximity to the raw materials is concerned. The Tata Iron and Steel Works manufacture a variety of products like iron sheets, bars, wheels and sleepers for railways, billets, agricultural implements and various types of alloy.
Bhilai Steel Works:
It is situated on Kolkata-Mumbai railway. Large reserves of high-grade iron ore with 65 per cent of iron content occur as hill masses at a distance of about 90 km. to the south of Bhilai. Dhalli Rajhara situated in the iron ore bearing area supplies ore to the Bhilai Steel Works.
Dhalli Rajhara- Bhilai railway which is 85 km. long was constructed with the sole aim of carrying iron ore to the Bhilai Steel Works. The Jharia coal-field about 750 km. away and the Korba coal-field about 232 km. away supply coal. Limestone is obtained from the Nandini quarries situated about 25 km. to the north of Bhilai. Water for these works is drawn from a stream flowing past Bhilai.
Rourkela Steel Works:
This plant is situated in Sundargarh district of Orissa. There is suitable condition for it. It is connected by railway with Kolkata and other industrial towns of West Bengal. Being located on Kolkata-Mumbai railway, it is conveniently connected with industrial towns of Western India.
Iron ore is obtained from Barsua located only 77 km. to the south of Raurkela. It is also brought from Barajamda and Kalta. The ore is high grade having an iron content of about 60 per cent. Coal comes from the Kargali and Jharia coal-mines about 300 km. away. Purnapani situated not far from the steel works supplies limestone. The ample water is available from the Brakman.
Bokaro Steel Plant:
It is located near Bokaro. The plant has been constructed in collaboration with the erstwhile U.S.S.R. It is one of the largest steel plants in the country and is located near the confluence of the Damodar and the Bokaro River. The construction of the steel plant was started in 1967 and its first blast furnace was inaugurated on October, 1972.
Its location has the advantage of nearness to coal and plenty of water. Iron ore, limestone and dolomite are within economical distances. Coal is obtained from the Bokaro and the Jharia coal-fields. Coal of coking quality is also available in this coal-field. High-grade iron ore is supplied by the Kiriburu iron’ ore mines located in the northern part of Keonjhar district.
It is also supplied by Bolani, Naomuhndi and Barsua. Limestone is available from Bhavnathpur and dolomite from the quarries at Tulsidamar in Palamau district. The plant has slabbing and rolling mills. Steel structures, nuts and bolts, stainless steel valves and auto-cables are manufactured.
The important industrial towns of this region are Asansol, Jamshedpur, Ghatsila, Ranchi, Jabalpur Katni, Raipur, Kumhari, Sambalpur, Talchar, Bokaro, Rourkela, Dhanbad and Raniganj.