New mining policy would curtail illegal mining: Steel Secy

"The new mining policy, after it is enacted into law by parliament, will empower the local people and help people settled around mining areas to develop a more positive attitude towards mining," said Misra, addressing steel producers and consumers at an interactive session on the Indian steel industry organized by FICCI.

A group of ministers (GoM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee last week approved the draft mining bill. The mines ministry plans to introduce the bill in the winter session of Parliament to replace the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act, 1957.

As per the draft bill, an independent regulator, called National Mining Regulatory Authority (NMRA), will have the powers to investigate and prosecute miners involved in illegal mining.  The bill also proposes to make it mandatory for miners to share 26 percent of the profits with the locals.

"The increasing awareness of tribal rights cannot be wished away. It is irreversible. The local people have to be taken into confidence in the process of land acquisition," said Misra.

Responding to the industry's concerns over environmental clearances, he said his ministry has been trying to impress upon the ministry of environment and forests to allow coal mining in "no go" zones where substantial investments have already been made. "We are also trying to push the state forest departments to speed up vetting of mining proposals with greater transparency so as to accord clearances within the stipulated 150 days."

A joint study by the environment and coal ministries has found that as much as 35 percent of coal mining areas across the country are located in "no go" zones.
A "no go" zone is a densely forested area where mining cannot be allowed.  Misra also urged the steel industry to address issues concerning energy and industrial water conservation, saying "these issues have environmental ramifications and addressing them would lead to better margins for the industry."

He emphasized the need for higher value addition, accent on acquiring high technology and higher spending of research for competitive steel production.

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