KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) – In a bid to deepen exploration and mining of atomic and rare earth minerals across the country, the Indian government is putting in place a slew of measures.
For starters, the government has notified that it will relax mining norms in fragile coastal areas and that the exploration and mining of 11 specified minerals in these areas will not be considered ‘illegal'. These include minerals like uranium, lithium, thorium, niobium, phosphate ores, titanium-bearing minerals and zirconium.
However, to limit environmental degradation, the notification stipulated that only manual mining will be permitted in the coastal regions.
According to government estimates, about 1 400 km of Indian coastline is considered mineral rich and the legislative changes seek to have these areas exploited through private sector participation and allocation of prospecting and mining licences through competitive bidding.
In another liberalisation of rules, the Department of Atomic Energy has informed that no licence will be required for the mining of titanium-bearing minerals on beach sands, as titanium has been delisted from the 2007 list of minerals requiring a government licence.
In the case of mining of atomic minerals, the government has extended the validity of mining leases from 30 years to 50 years to enable optimal extraction of resources.
However, the most significant move is the proposed amendment of laws to allocate offshore mining licences through the auction route in line with the allocation of onshore mineral assets.
The Mines Ministry has drafted the amendments to Offshore Mineral Development Regulation Act 2002, which is now in circulation for feedback from stakeholders. The government proposed to place the amendments for approval during the forthcoming winter session of Parliament.
The proposed Bill is designed to put in place a mechanism for the granting of a composite exploration cum production licence through competitive bidding to ensure a transparent and nondiscriminatory regime of operating rights in the offshore area, a Ministry official said.