Mines ministry says no to export ban on minerals to check illegal mining

This was the primary recommendation of Shah Commission in its interim report

By Sugandh Juneja
Published: Thursday 05 January 2012

The Ministry of Mines has disapproved of Shah Commission’s primary recommendation to ban exports of all iron and manganese ores to check illegal mining.

In its response to the Shah Commission's interim report on illegal mining in December, the ministry noted that it was not exports but poor state governance that has left illegal mining unchecked. The Commission, under Justice M B Shah, was set up by the Centre in November 2010 to look into illegal mining of iron and manganese ores. It submitted its interim report on July 14, 2011.

The Commission in its report recognises that there is large scale illegal mining of iron and manganese ores in a number of states. This has led to increased corruption and mafia, besides loss to the exchequer. The Commission puts onus for the illegal mining on the profits in the export market mainly to China. The price of both the ores has increased by about 20 per cent without any corresponding increase in the amount going to the exchequer. The primary recommendation of the report was to ban exports of all iron and manganese ores. There was a relaxation and review provision put in place in the report stating that the exports maybe allowed once an 'effective' enforcement agency was put in place to see that no illegal operations occur.

Other reasons for illegal mining as put forth by the Commission include lack of effective enforcement and shortage of adequate staff and infrastructure. To address this, the Commission suggests the capacity of state authorities be strengthened. 

The report also recommends changes in the procedure for renewal of mining leases. The faulty procedure and the delay in renewing leases were seen as one of the main causes of illegal mining by the Commission. The changes include applying for approval of the concerned forest officer in case of forestland at the time of renewal. Also, if required, a simultaneous application needs to be made to the state pollution control board for clearance. Another suggestion was to make sure the boundary pillars marking the mine lease area are made of concrete and properly placed. These need to be checked every month by the concerned authorities and a record of the same should be maintained. If at the time of renewal it is found that a miner is carrying out any mining activity outside of the mine lease area as marked out by these pillars, the application may be rejected.      

 “It is not correct to categorise all kinds of irregularities as the mining activity being illegal. A clear distinction needs to be drawn between non-compliance with forest or environment related laws and what is illegal mining,” says an official of ministry of mines who refused to be named. According to him, illegal mining is best described as per section 4 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act of 1957 which says any mining activity in an area by a person who does not hold the appropriate lease or license is to be considered illegal.

The ministry in its response has also enlisted all the state level initiatives they have taken in the past and those taken in light of this interim report.



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