Mineral exploration in forest areas may soon be smoother

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NEW DELHI : The government proposes to abolish the need for companies to obtain forest expropriation to conduct mineral exploration in forest areas – seen as a cumbersome and time-consuming process and a barrier to investment.

The changes to the forest clearing rules for mineral exploration are contained in amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, proposed to be introduced during the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament after approval by Parliament. cabinet, an official who is aware of the development said.

With just over a week to go before the parliament session, the mines ministry is quickly seeking cabinet approval for the amendments so the bill can be introduced, the official quoted above said.

Under the proposed amendments, mineral exploration and research activities such as reconnaissance and prospecting (exploration) operations conducted in forest land within a period specified by law will no longer be considered as forest land diversion for non-forest activities under the Forest Protection Act. Act, 1980.

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The amendments further specify that state governments can decide how to grant permission to conduct mineral exploration.

The amendments would speed up the process of granting and operationalizing exploration permits (RP) and prospecting permits (PL) as the forestry clearing for the exploration phase has been abolished. The changes are expected to attract more investment in mineral exploration as cumbersome processes and regulations would have discouraged large mineral companies from undertaking activities critical to exploiting India’s mineral resources.

The decision to abolish forest clearing for RP and PL stages of mining operations follows a recommendation by a high-level committee of Niti Aayog to make these changes to facilitate exploration activities.

Later, the Ministry of the Environment also submitted a consultation document to amend the Forest Protection Act of 1980 to remove mineral exploration from the law, arguing that it produced no discernible changes in forest land and biodiversity and that it was short-lived.

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The ministry said RP and PL were given for activities that lasted only three to five years and that the ratio of conversion from exploration to mining rent was as low as 100:1. Clearing forest diversions for such activities would thus have no impact on the forest landscape of the country.

Getting central government approval for RP and PL was time-consuming, often causing investors to lose interest in projects where the presence of a mineral had yet to be determined, the official said. To auction more blocks and improve mineral production, more exploration is needed. Mining activities can only be undertaken after the presence of minerals in an area has been established. And in any case, clearing would have to be taken before mining operations can begin.

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India has abundant mineral resources, a significant portion of which has yet to be tapped. The availability of mineral resources would play a vital role in determining India’s growth trajectory to become Atmanirbhar Bharat and reach a $5 trillion economy.

The proposed changes also entail a slew of other reforms, all centered around the idea of ​​maximizing resource use without harming the ecology. In total, there are six major changes proposed by the Ministry of Mines.

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