India’s mining major Vedanta has requested the Union mines ministry to arrange relaxation from the environmental condition that makes it mandatory to use “dismantallable” drilling machine in the forest area of its gold mine.
This environmental condition has been put by the forest department of Chhattisgarh government. “Dismantallable” drilling machine can be disassembled easily once the drilling working is done. Therefore, it can be carried without doing any damage to the forest area. Vedanta won the composite license (prospecting licence–cum–mining lease) for Baghmara gold mine, which is situated in Chhattisgarh, in the non-coal auction this February. According to the company, around 90 per cent of the auctioned area is forest land.
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While the state governments have been conducting the non-coal auction since December last year, the Union mines ministry has been calling the meeting of post-auction mining clearances and approvals faciltator (PAMCAF). In the third PAMCAF meeting, which took place on October 28, the Vedanta representative said that “dismantallable drilling machine consume a lot of time and labour and delays the whole process of prospecting.”
The minutes of the October 28 meeting noted that “on this matter, he (Vedanta representative) requested that this particular condition may be relaxed.” Balvinder Kumar, secretary, Union Ministry of Mines, has forwarded the Vedanta’s request to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The company did not respond to the emailed queries of The Indian Express.
The composite licence (prospecting licence–cum–mining lease) is given for an area where there is inadequate evidence of mineral contents. While prospecting licence is granted for exploring, locating and proving mineral deposits, the mining lease is required finally to extract minerals.
“He (Vedanta representative) stated that as per the orders of state forest departments, the use of dismantallable drilling machine is necessary in order to protect forest resources from adverse effects of carrying whole drilling machine,” said the minutes of the meeting. Baghmara gold mine, which has approximately 2,700 kg of gold metal, is spread across 608 hectares in Balodabazar district of Chhattisgarh.
The first ever non-coal auction in the country began in December, 2015. As per the new mining law — Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015 — which came into effect from January 2015, the non-coal mines have to be auctioned by the respective state governments. Under the old mining law, the state governments only had the powers to grant the mining lease to any company as per their discretion.
A total of 17 mines, including the Baghmara gold block, has been auctioned till date. JSW group — whose firm JSW Steel is the largest steel company in the country — won five iron ore mines in Karnataka in October only. Karantaka has auctioned total seven iron ore mines till date. JSW representatives, in the October 28 meeting, urged the mines ministry to take the matter of transfer of environment clearances and forest clearances in the name of “successful bidders” of these seven iron ore mines.
“Moreover, they (JSW representatives) also requested the Ministry of Mines to hold a meeting with MoEFCC to take up the matter of extension of environment clearance/forest clearance for mines where clearances have lapsed and subsequently to transfer the same in the name of successful bidder,” the minutes of the meeting noted. JSW did not respond to the emailed queries of The Indian Express.
In March, Essar Steel won the Ghoraburhani-Sagasahi iron ore block in Sundargarh district of Odisha. During the October 28 meeting, the Essar Steel representative told the mines ministry that the process of forest clearance is getting hold up due to delay in identification and allotment of compensatory afforestation land. “This is due to the fact that nearly 3.75 hectare of land has been identified as tribal land. An application in this regard for forest diversion has been submitted,” the minutes noted.
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