The central government on Wednesday issued the draft National Mineral Policy (NMP), 2018, wherein it stated that a “long term export policy for the mineral sector” is the need of the hour as it will provide “stability” and “incentive” for bringing investments in “large scale commercial mining” activities.
“A long term export policy for the mineral sector would provide stability and prove to be an incentive for investing in large scale commercial mining activity. To develop mining as a stand-alone industry, substantial investment is required. Assurances on export of minerals will be a key factor for investment decisions particularly on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sector. The export policy should be based on a clear long term strategy,” the draft NMP stated.
In 2016-17, the ratio of minerals produced to minerals imported in India was 1:10, according to Niti Aayog. The estimated domestic production of minerals — including bauxite, iron ore, limestone except coal — in India has been of Rs 36, 470 crore for the financial year 2016-17. “The import figures of important minerals and metals — including copper and concentrates, diamond, nickel ores and concentrates, gold and potash — is estimated to be Rs 3.45 lakh crore, “ the Niti Aayog told the Union mines ministry last year.
The Central government has asked all stakeholders — state governments, mining companies, industry associations, general public, etc — to send their comments to the Union mines ministry by February 9, 2018. One of the major issues ailing the Indian mining sector has been the lack of efficient transport infrastructure to send minerals from mines to ports or factories. On this topic, the draft NMP stated: “While local evacuation networks will be encouraged to be built in an integrated manner along with developing the mineral blocks, dedicated mineral corridors shall be planned to facilitate transport of minerals for mining areas in hinterland.”
“Development and installation of innovative, eco-friendly and efficient modes of evacuation like slurry pipelines and close loop conveyors shall be promoted and encouraged. An enabling environment will be cleared to allow mining companies to undertake construction of such infrastructure including construction of conventional transportation networks like rail and roads for their own usage in coordination of state/Central agencies. Use of coastal waterways and inland shipping shall also be promoted. To promote investment in the mining sector special incentives or priority movement by railways/port/coastal shipping must be encouraged,” the draft NMP added.
The policy has also focused on the issue of evacuation of minerals from small and scattered deposits, where the small scale sub-optimal mining leads to ecological disturbances. On this issue, the draft NMP stated that preferential right to any mine, which has small deposits and is situated in one of the scheduled areas, should be given to any scheduled tribe (STs) “singly or as cooperatives while extending enabling environment to carry-out mining operations in a systematic and efficient manner”. The draft NMP added that where small deposits are not susceptible to viable mining, a cluster approach will be adopted by granting the deposits as a single lease within a specified geographical area.
The Central government is also likely to grant industry status to mining sector because currently only those mining projects which have a substantial component of mining machinery, equipment and buildings are being financed by financial institutions. “Steps shall be taken to facilitate financing of mine development and also exploration being integral to the mining project for which efforts shall be made to grant mining the status of industry,” the draft NMP added.
The draft NMP has also stated that all relevant acts or rules, which are related to rehabilitation and resettlement (eg. Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013), should be “strictly” implemented on ground.