The Centre has urged states to refrain from allowing mining in unspecified areas and has asked them to notify the mining zones before proceeding to allocate mineral concessions.
It has also decided to return all applications received from state governments for approving leases in non-notified areas.
The move comes in the aftermath of a report by the MB Shah Commission on illegal mining in the states.
In its report, the panel has computed an annual loss of over Rs 1,00,000 crore to the revenues of Orissa, Goa and other states.
The government and the industry are keenly awaiting the Supreme Court’s verdict on September 9 on the allocation of coal blocks since 1993, as the apex court has already held the allotments to be illegal.
The Union mines ministry has told state governments that since there is a pressing need to bring in greater transparency and fairness in the allocation of mineral concessions, notifying an area before vetting mining lease applications should be the “default process” as it serves the public interest within the existing legal framework.
At a meeting convened on August 22, mines secretary Anup K Pujari told the representatives of six states that since the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, has lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha and until a new legislation is proposed, states should forward applications for mining leases only for notified areas.
“It was decided in the meeting that the ministry will return all proposals of areas pending with the Central government which have not been notified, to the states with a suggestion to notify the same,” a mines ministry official, who attended the meeting, told
The Indian Express.
However, if the states decide to re-submit proposals without notifying the areas, “the proposal should be supported and clear justification for not notifying them,” the official said, quoting Pujari. The mines ministry has already begun the process of issuing revised guidelines for granting mining leases, the official said.
Senior officials from mines departments of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra said that they endorse Pujari’s proposal and efforts would begin efforts to identify areas with known mineralisation and notify them.
However, Orissa government officials favoured reserving such areas for the public sector.
Over 60,000 mineral concession applications are pending with Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.