The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the mines ministry to process mineral lease applications sent by state governments in a “transparent and prompt” manner. There are currently over 60,000 applications pending with the mines ministry.
Principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Nripendra Misra, has written to mines secretary Anup Pujari on the imperative to expedite processing of applications in keeping with the government’s larger aim of kickstarting the developmental process in infrastructure and manufacturing.
In a letter on September 3, Misra has also asked Pujari to “furnish monthly updates on actions taken by the mines ministry to revive legal and responsible mining”.
The suggestions follow the observations of the MB Shah Commission of Enquiry into illegal mining in Goa and Orissa that pegged the losses to the state exchequer at close to Rs 1 lakh crore.
The PMO has advised the mines secretary to intensify consultations with the concerned states and “work out a corrective action plan for transparent approval of mining leases and their renewal”.
The PMO is concerned that 63,393 mineral concession applications are pending with the governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.
As per the existing rules, there are provisions for disposal of Reconnaissance Permits within six months; Prospecting Licences within nine months and execute Mining Leases applications within 12 months.
According to a presentation prepared by the mines ministry, Karnataka tops the list of the states with 19,497 pending applications followed by Rajasthan with 13,893 applications, Andhra Pradesh with 7,691, Madhya Pradesh with 4,680 and Jharkhand with 4,517 applications.
The mines ministry had asked the state governments on August 22 to process applications for concessions only for notified areas. Pujari has conveyed to the states that all applications received from them for approving leases in non-notified areas will not be entertained and returned.
The government is unable to usher in comprehensive mining reforms as the legislation drafted for the purpose has lapsed with the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha.
The Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Bill 2011 envisaged auctioning mineral resources and ensuring seamless transition of mineral concessions.
The Bill, however, lapsed on the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha. In view of the illegal mining in Karnataka, the Supreme Court had banned mining in the state in 2011. Iron ore output slid to 145.48 MT 2013-14 from 218.65 MT in 2009-10, which have drastically lowered the availability of the mineral.