Bill to tighten mining laws

Locals to be consulted on licensing

Bill to tighten mining laws

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill 2010 – to be introduced in the winter session of Parliament - will pave the way for setting up a National Mining Regulatory Authority (NMRA), empowered to investigate and prosecute companies involved in illegal mining.

State governments may set up similar authority at state level for minor minerals.
Mineral resources being a state-subject, only state governments have investigation and prosecution authority at the moment.

But the proposed NMRA would be empowered to look at large scale violation of mining rules involving more than one state – similar to what happened at the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border.

“The minimum lease area would be 10 hectares. There will be provisions for mandatory GPS survey.

“The technical agency – Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) – will be strengthened with the infusion of more science and technology to monitor and prevent illegal mining,” S Vijay Kumar, mining secretary said here after the Cabinet meeting.

At the moment, mining companies are required to submit a copy of their mining plans with the IBM before undertaking mining activities.

“The mining plan and annual production figures will be released in the public domain so that non-governmental organisations and panchayat institutions can also monitor illegal mining,” Kumar said.

Enhanced penalties

The bill has enhanced penalties for violation of provisions of the act including debarment of persons convicted of illegal mining for future grants and termination of all mineral concessions held by such persons.

The draft legislation also seeks to create a corpus that would be utilied for the benefit of districts and local population where mining is being carried out. The fund will be created by doubling the annual royalty from non-coal minerals and 26 per cent of net profits by coal companies like Coal India Ltd.

It will be credited to district-level mineral foundation for developmental activities and infrastructure development.

“We receive about Rs 4,500 crore as royalty on non-coal minerals, which will now be increased to Rs 8,500 crore. In addition, coal companies have to give 26 per cent of their profits to the fund, which will be utilised for district development,” said Mines Minister Dinsha Patel.

There is no system of compensating the locals and tribals affected by mining currently, which the new bill seeks to address. Consultation with locals before notifying an area for grant of concession and for approval of mine closure plan will also be mandatory. The funds for setting up the regulatory authority and National Mining Tribunal are likely to be met from levy of cess at the rate of 2.5 per cent on the basis of customs and excise duty.

What the bill proposes

* A national regulator - National Mining Regulatory Authority
* NMRA to look at inter-state illegal mining, like in the case of Reddys
* Violations of law would debar companies from mining
* People affected by mining will have say in licensing and delicensing companies
* Royalty on non-coal minerals to be doubled

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