Modi govt may revive mining Bill, streamline clearances

The Financial Express, June 09, 2014

The Modi government may revive the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulatory) Bill, which the UPA failed to pass in Parliament during its tenure, paving way for high-tech exploration in new blocks, foster competition and ensure adequate compensation for the displaced.

A new mining Bill to replace the existing archaic MMDR Act 1957 has become necessary to make the concession regime more investor-friendly by simplifying and speeding up the procedures for granting concessions and providing security of tenure. It will also enable miners to explore deep-seated and concealed deposits of copper, lead, zinc, gold, platinum and diamonds.

While enacting a new legislation may take some time, the cabinet secretariat has been entrusted to review all aspects of project implementation including those in mining, to “evolve policy notes” that can form inputs for any changes in the rules.

The government is also expediting the process of putting in place an online clearance system to salvage stalled mining projects that have held back investment worth a few lakh crore of rupees, said Anil Swarup, head of the project monitoring group and an additional secretary at the cabinet secretariat.

While some of the mega projects such as South Korean firm Posco’s proposed Rs 54,000-crore steel project, Tata Sasol’s Rs 60,000-crore coal-to-liquid project and Bhusan Steel’s Rs 30,000-crore plant have been delayed for many months, very few coal or iron ore mines have actually come up in the past few years after the coal block allocation scam came to surface.

“A comprehensive amendment (to the mining legislations) or a new Bill may come up,” Arun Kumar, joint secretary at the mines ministry, said at a FICCI conference. He could not elaborate on the proposed changes as the government is yet to firm up its views.

In 2011, the UPA government introduced a Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulatory) Bill in Parliament that proposed competitive bidding for mines, a 26% profit share with affected people in case of coal mines and sharing equal part of the royalty payment for other major minerals.

Although a parliamentary standing committee had submitted its report on the Bill, the UPA government could not manage to pass the legislation. The Bill has lapsed and the new government has to move a new Bill.

While enacting a new legislation may take some time, the NDA government is aiming to streamline all clearances to make it time-bound and transparent. “By July 1, all forest clearance will go online, environment clearances by September and mining clearances by November. Online clearances for coal may also be launched by the end of the year,” Swarup said .

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