Ballari: While the “secular” credentials of 18th Mysuru king, Tipu Sultan have come under scrutiny of late , the Ballari mining community remembers him as a pioneer of scientific mining in this ore rich region.
Before the present day mining lords plundered the mineral rich Obulapuram zone around the Sugalamma hillock of the Ballari Reserve Forest (BRF) in Rayadurga taluk of Andhra Pradesh, nearly 230 years ago, the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, excavated mineral from the area to manufacture rocket artillery.
According to volume XXV of the Geology of Bellary District, Madras Presidency, published in 1895, Tipu had a mine on the Sugalamma hillock.
The author of the volume, Robert Bruce Foote, who was a superintendent of the Geological Survey of India, wrote that “metal was mined for by Tipu Sultan when master of the Bellary region”.
He wrote that a European geologist in Tipu's army had vouched for the existence of minerals like copper in Sugalamma. While he found no sign of copper here during his travels, in his third attempt, he found an old abandoned mine on “Copper Mountain” as he called Suggammadevi Betta.
According to Kannada Kaifiyats, Tipu's European engineers manufactured war weapons, including his famed war rockets in the melting furnaces located in the area with an important change: the use of metal cylinders to contain the combustion powder. Tipu is said to have also stored artillery in the Ballari lower fort.
Later, in 1900, British geologist, Bruce Forte announced that the Bellary-Hospet-Sandur region had huge deposits of iron ore. Following this, a Belgium company first began digging for ore in the region, having acquired mining rights from the erstwhile princely state of Sandur. And the rest followed....