The Ministry of Mines, Government of India in the current fiscal has come up with many new reforms for the betterment of the mining sector in the country. Let’s have a look at some of these prominent reforms which will surely lessen the bottlenecks associated with this sector.

1. Star Rating of Mining Leases to Establish Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) for Indian Mining Sector

A star rating will be awarded to the mining leases by the government of India for their efforts and initiatives towards the implementation of the SDF. The mines will be rated from 1 to 5 stars with the best performing leases getting 5 stars. The objective behind this annual exercise is to have a built-in compliance mechanism for environment and forest safeguards and encourage all mining lease holders to strive for excellence. Initially, Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) felicitated 19 mines with 4 and 5 star ratings. Eight mining leases were awarded 5 star rating and remaining leases were given 4 star rating.

2. Establishment of District Mineral Foundation Fund (DMF) for the Welfare of Mining Affected Areas & People

The Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojna (PMKKKY) aims at the implementation framework for schemes to be undertaken for the welfare and development of mining affected people and areas through funds collected under DMF. PMKKKY provides for the utilization of at least 60% of funds for high priority areas – drinking water, environmental protection and health care to name a few. According to the Ministry of Mines, total amount collected towards DMF by 12 mineral rich states as on 10 Oct’16 summed up to INR 35.89 billion.

3. Exploration of Mineral Resources

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has covered the entire 3.14 million sq km of the country’s mappable area by systematic geological mapping on the basis of which Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) area of about 0.8 million sq km has been identified. Of the identified OGP area, GSI has explored 0.317 million sq km and 0.19 million sq km by National Geochemical Mapping and National Geophysical Mapping respectively. Moreover, for accelerating exploration especially targeting deep- seated and concealed mineral deposits over the OGP, the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP) has been approved by the government. The NMEP proposes to attract participation from private exploration agencies.

4. Setting Up National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) to Strengthen Mineral Exploration

Further, the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 established NMET wherein the holder of mining lease or prospecting leases cum mining leases (ML) would pay to the trust a sum equivalent to 2% of royalty. The trust is supposed to carry out regional and detailed exploration for minerals and related activities for exploration development.

5. Extension of Mining Surveillance System (MSS) to Curb Illegal Mining Activities

MSS aims to use space technology for facilitating state governments in curbing illegal mining activities in the country. MSS is a satellite-based monitoring system which includes user-friendly mobile-app for the use of mining officials to receive alerts, carry out field verification and submit inspection reports.

Challenges

There are 317 pending applications with state governments of 12 mineral rich states, which are saved under section 10A (2) (c) of the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015. The Ministry of Mines is making efforts to expedite these requisite clearances under the provisions of their governing act and rules. If these mining lease applications are not processed before 11 Jan’17, they would automatically lapse.

Out of 317 cases, 69 cases involve pending forest clearance either at the level of the state government or the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). Also, there are an equal number of cases with pending environment clearance. Apart from this, there are 95 cases where action is pending with the state governments, mostly with the department of mines and some with the revenue department and the state pollution control boards. Further, there are 97 cases where the project proponents have not taken action to process their clearances.

Union Mines Secretary, Mr Balwinder Kumar said swift processing of these ML applications is important since it would not only impact the mining industry but also have a bearing on the downstream and allied sectors.

Source: Steel 360 Magazine Jan’17 Issue