New mining leases deemed to have all approvals for 2 years: Environment ministry

New lessee will take on water, air, forest rights and other liabilities from the previous lessee

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Tuesday 07 April 2020
A mining site in Odisha Photo: Chandra Bhushan

Successful bidders under the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act 2020, were granted deemed clearances for two years, under guidelines issues by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on March 31, 2020.

The new lessee would function with the same set of terms and conditions stipulated for the previous lessee for two years, according to the guidelines.

The mining leases of all captive mines were extended till March 31, under the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015.

Captive mines are those where the mined mineral cannot be sold commercially to other companies.

The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act 2020 was brought in to ensure sustained production of minerals in the country and had come into force from January 10.

The law has a provision that said successful bidders would be deemed to have acquired the clearances from the previous lessee.

The government gave up the chance to ensure compliance because of this preferential treatment for industries, according to experts.

The new lessee would take on water, air forest rights and other liabilities from the previous lessee, according to Kanchi Kohli, of Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based research organisation.

“There are violations of clearances in a lot of cases, with litigations in many places. With these guidelines, the government assumes all these liabilities would be sorted out within two years,” Kohli said.

The guidelines said if approvals were not obtained by the end of the two-year period, mining activity would be stopped until approvals were received.

“If they find that the new lessee has not fixed the violations, are they then going to revoke the clearances?” she asked.

The lessee would have to pay the net present value of the total forest area upfront, despite not getting new clearances for two years.

“The state government shall realise a lump sum amount at the rate of Rs 7.50 lakh per ha (for the total forest area within the mining lease) from the new Letter of Intent holder,” the guidelines said.

The amount would be deposited into the account of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority and adjusted against actual compensatory levies payable on forest land, according to the guidelines.

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