It is not just allocation of coal blocks that is being questioned. Just how misgoverned coal mining,and in fact the entire mining sector,is has emerged from a study sponsored by the Planning Commission.
Focusing on four states,the study has found that illegal mining beyond the environments carrying capacity continues in Orissa,that lack of political will and integrity of institutions and officials has hurt the mining industry of Karnataka,and that a lack of engagement with the local population has led to violent resistance by Naxalites in Jharkhand. In contrast,a highly aware Goan population has been forcing mining companies to behave more responsibly,it says.
Governance failure,multiplicity of regulatory authorities,political interference and lack of consultation with local stakeholders,besides mindless illegal mining,ail the mining sector of India,says the report by the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development on Sustainable Development Emerging Issues in Indias Mineral Sector.
Illegal mining operations are prevalent in many mining areas. While industry greed and unethical business practices no doubt play an important role,these have been facilitated by a combination of procedural delays,administrative inefficiency,political interference and institutional graft against the background of rising mineral prices (since 2004), says the study.
Observing that mining may have brought significant economic benefits,the study also points out how avoidable environmental and social damages continue to occur in mining areas due to ineffective implementation of existing laws,which are stymied by political and administrative structures leading to a governance failure in mining.
The best international practices such as local stakeholder engagement and consultation,sharing of benefits with local communities,creating infrastructure,human and social capital in mining project areas and transparency in communication and accountability receive little time or attention from mining stakeholders,says the IDIS study,submitted to the Planning Commission in May.
The study also points to variations in the environmental behaviour of mining enterprises while larger companies have concerns for scientific mining,environmental protection and limited socio-economic development,smaller enterprises are focused on maximum extraction of mineral resources from their lease areas. Small miners are also restricted due to their financial,technical and managerial limitations and are unable to take corrective measures against the negative consequences of mining,the study says.
The study tears into the draft Mines and Mineral Development Regulation Bill,2011,for proposing to create more regulatory bodies and new coordination mechanisms such as the Governing Council of the proposed District Mineral Fund (DMF). It argues that the DMF will add to misallocation and diversion of funds to non-mining areas in a district,political manipulation,corruption and lack of capacity at local government levels for effective delivery of services to the affected people. Contrary to what has been suggested in the Draft MMDR Bill,2011,it is the mineral industry,its members and associations which should take the main initiative to design and implement the proposed sustainable development framework,the study has recommended.
The recommended course correction calls for administrative reforms to make state government agencies responsible for mineral administration in their area,streamlining of procedures and various approvals,mandatory consultations between mining leaseholders and local communities and making it legally binding for them to undertake socio-economic development projects in their mining areas. Separate legislative and administrative arrangements relating to mine closure and post-closure activities have also been suggested besides establishing the concept of social licence to operate.