KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – In a bid to derisk mineral production, the Indian government is working on amending rules and on setting a deadline for miners to complete exploration on the mineral leases that are set to expire in 2020.
In the case of mining leases for iron-ore, manganese and chromite, existing lease holders have to complete exploration projects by April 1, 2019.
The Ministry of Mines plans to amend the Mineral Concession and Amendment Rules 2017, to set such a deadline. Miners have been invited to comment on the proposed changes and have until February 16 to do so.
The proposed changes in the rules stipulate that miners holding leases that expire on March 31, 2020 will have to submit their exploration plans within 60 days from the date of issue of notification effecting the rule changes.
Thereafter, provincial governments will be given 30 days to sanction the new exploration project and all miners will be responsible for implementing and completing the exploration projects by April 1, 2019.
The proposed changes to the rules aim to expedite exploration and to ready the existing mining lease areas so that fresh auctions can start in May next year. It also seeks to ensure that production will not be affected by the expiring leases.
As many as 348 noncoal mining leases are slated to expire at the end of March 2020 and the federal Mines Ministry is apprehensive over the lack of preparedness of the provincial government to hold fresh auctions within the limited time available, risking widespread disruptions in production and supply of a range of minerals.
Against this backdrop, the Mines Ministry last month convened a meeting with representatives of mining departments of all mineral-bearing provinces.
Already, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries has cautioned of risks to availability of raw materials for downstream industries if mining leases are not issued through fresh auctions within a specific timeframe by the provincial governments.
The Mines Ministry has conveyed to the provincial governments that those bagging fresh mining leases at auctions will require “sufficient time to secure all mandatory approvals” and has said that any delays in the post-auction process will lead to the operational mines getting stranded.
The provincial governments have been directed to submit to the Mines Ministry an action plan for holding fresh auctions, including all details of any fresh exploration that may be required within the leasehold area, finalisation of geological assessment reports and identification of specialised agencies that will be empanelled in case of new exploration projects in the leasehold area.