Bill to allow private players in mining activities tabled in Rajya Sabha

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New Delhi, Mar 22 (PTI) The government on Monday introduced in Rajya Sabha a bill to amend the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, which will help create employment opportunities and allow the private sector with enhanced technology in mining activities.

Union Minister for Coal and Mines Pralhad Joshi introduced the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 in the Upper House and said this bill aims to bring changes in the mining and coal sector and will generate 55 lakh direct and indirect employment.

'The government has already consulted several state governments and various stakeholders and after that process, we have brought eight major reforms,' he said.

The bill has been passed by Lok Sabha on March 19.

Several opposition parties in the Upper House, including the Congress, TDP, and the RJD demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee for discussion.

Joshi said the major objective is to generate employment in the sector and enhance the contribution of the mining sector in the total GDP of the country.

'Now the contribution of the mining sector, putting all together, is around 1.75 per cent and we want to take it to 2.5 per cent which is our commitment,' he added.

According to him, the mining sector contributes around 7 to 7.5 per cent of the GDP of countries like South Africa and Australia which are as mineral-rich as India.

'Major reason why we are lacking in the mining sector is we do not have explored mines. Only 10 per cent of the Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) area we have explored so far and out of that, in only 5 per cent of OGP we are mining,' he said, adding that in countries such as Australia and South Africa 70 to 80 per cent of OGP is mined.

The reason is that only government agencies are involved in the process.

'We want to bring private players into this because we have rich minerals like coal, gold, silver, but we are not being able to bring it out. That's why we are bringing these changes and trying to redefine exploration,' he added.

The government is proposing to make National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) an autonomous and professional body, which would provide fund for exploration, Joshi added.

The minister informed the House that the bill was even supported by many non-BJP-ruled states as it is in national interest.

A total of '334 working merchant mines have expired in 2020 and out of that, 46 mines were working and were dispatching. Now despite all clearance out of that 46, only 28 has been auctioned despite all clearance given by us and in between that there was a shortage of iron ore,' he said.

It would create a level-playing field and end the system of captive and non-captive mines, which was followed in India only and created a lot of problems. The government is also fixing the mechanism to calculate extra royalty into the schedule of the bill.

'Without any charges, we have allowed the transfer of mines. We want to bring a transparent system,' he said, adding it is a progressive bill and will bring a lot of change.

While initiating the debate on the bill, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said that the government was snatching the rights of the state government and demanded the bill to be referred to the standing committee for discussion.

'A detailed discussion is required,' he said, adding the government is misguiding the people.

'You are working for the capitalists and that's why you have allowed for the sale of up to 50 per cent of minerals...,' he said.

The bill impacts the poor people living in the mining area.

'This is the irony that the poorest people of the country live in the mineral-rich area,' he said.

He further added that competitive bidding was introduced by the previous Congress-led UPA government in 2010.

Singh also said that the government has not fully completed the process of having 30 days of pre-legislative consultation.

BJP member Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the bill was framed after a detailed discussion with stakeholders. PTI KRH SMN SMN