The top 10 mineral rich states of the country have submitted their action plans to the central government regarding auction of 329 mines that are going to expire on March 31, 2020. The central government has been asking the states since August 31 last year to submit the action plans.
While Gujarat and Karnataka submitted their action plan in April, Haryana did it in May this year. Odisha has submitted its action plan in two tranches – one in April this year and second in July this year. For the states such as Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the status of preparedness for auction of mining leases — which are expiring in 2020 — has been received by the central government from the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM).
The Indian Express had reported on March 12 that even after repeated reminders, only two states — Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan — submitted their action plans to Centre till February 22 this year.
In its action plan, Gujarat has told the central government that no exploration activities will be carried out in four limestone mines. The state has given following reasons: Two of the four mines have no limestone left in them, one mine’s area lies with the irrigation department and another mine’s area lies within one km of marine national park.
Last month, the central government advised all the state governments to complete the exploration activities at 329 mines, which are expiring in 2020, by the end of this year. However, Karnataka and Haryana have told the Centre in their respective action plans that they plan to complete exploration by March 31, 2019.
In total, there are 46 iron and manganese mining leases expiring in Karnataka as on March 31, 2020. “Upon scrutiny it is observed that six mining leases are readily available for auction as on 2020 and in 27 mining leases, exploration work should be completed by the end of March 31, 2019,” Karnataka told the Centre in its action plan.
Karnataka has told the Centre that out of total 46 mines that are going to expire in 2020, 8 mines should be dropped from the auction process and five mines are in dispute due to inter-state boundary issues. For the remaining mines, Karnataka plans to issue the notice inviting tenders (NITs) by July 15 next year.
Odisha has told the Centre that non-availability of clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, for the whole of forest area in the lease has been observed to be a major hurdle by the lease-owners to take up exploration of the said area.
As per the last review taken by the Odisha government on February 1, 2018, the reports submitted by the miners show that exploration has been completed up to G2/G1 level in case of seven leases only. Total 31 mines are going to see their lease expire in 2020. The exploration for any mineral deposit involves four stages: reconnaissance survey (G4), preliminary exploration (G3), general exploration (G2) and detailed exploration (G1). G2-level exploration’s objective is to establish the main geological features of a deposit and provide an initial estimate of size, shape, structure and grade of the mineral in the mine.
Odisha told the Centre in its action plan: “The concerned mining lease holders have been instructed to make all-out efforts to complete the exploration by March 31, 2018 so that the associated requisites like preparation like Geological Reports, DGPS (Differential Global Positioning Systems) survey of the lease area, finalisation of land schedule etc. can be ensured in time for putting these blocks into auction prior to March 31, 2020 and there by continuity of the operation of mines can be maintained.” Odisha told the Centre last month that the new deadline to complete the exploration is December 31, 2018.
As per the new mining law — the 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 law, states had the powers to grant the mining lease to any company as per their discretion.
The 2015 mining law clearly states that if a company has already got the ML of a non-coal block for captive purposes, it can continue to mine it till the lease period ends. Once it ends, such a company will have the first right of refusal. Moreover, the law stated that if a company has the ML of a block for non-captive purposes, the company can keep the mine till 2020 or till the lease period ends, whichever is later. According to Union mines ministry, mining leases of 329 non-coal blocks will expire on March 31, 2020, and they will have to be auctioned by states.