The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023
The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, has recently been passed by the Rajya Sabha, marking a significant milestone in the regulation and exploration of minerals in India. The Bill suggests a range of reforms, one of which involves the implementation of an exploration license for essential minerals found in deep-seated areas.
Exploration Licence for Deep-Seated and Critical Minerals
One of the major reforms proposed in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, is the introduction of an exploration licence for deep-seated and critical minerals. This new licence will enable private sector licensees to undertake “reconnaissance” and prospecting operations for the minerals listed in the newly proposed Seventh Schedule of the Act, which contains a comprehensive list of 29 minerals.
Understanding “Reconnaissance Operations”
The Bill defines “reconnaissance operations” as preliminary prospecting activities that include aerial surveys, geophysical surveys, geochemical surveys, and geological mapping. These operations play a crucial role in identifying potential mineral-rich areas and are essential for efficient and responsible mining.
Wide Range of Critical Minerals
The Seventh Schedule of the Bill encompasses an array of critical minerals that hold strategic importance. Some of these minerals include Diamond, Gold, Silver, Graphite, and various Zinc-bearing minerals. With the inclusion of these minerals in the schedule, the government aims to streamline their exploration and management.
Duration of Exploration Licence
As per the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, the exploration licence will be granted for a period of five years from the date of its execution. During this period, the licensee will have the opportunity to conduct in-depth assessments and evaluations of the mineral-rich regions.
Extension of Exploration Licence
In situations beyond the licensee’s control, an extension of the exploration licence beyond the initial five years is possible. If the holder of the exploration licence applies for an extension after three years from the date of execution, the State Government can grant a further extension for a period not exceeding two years.
Retention of Authorized Area
After the first three years of exploration, the licensee will be allowed to retain up to 25% of the originally authorized area. This provision is aimed at providing some flexibility to the licensees while ensuring responsible and efficient mineral exploration.
Empowering the Central Government
The insertion of Section 11D in the Act is of particular significance. It empowers the Central Government to grant mining lease or composite licence through auction by competitive bidding for Critical and Strategic Minerals. This move is expected to foster a more transparent and competitive approach to mineral exploration and extraction.
Critical and Strategic Minerals in Part-D
The newly added Part-D of the Bill lists a range of Critical and Strategic Minerals, including Graphite, Potash, Beryl, and other beryllium-bearing minerals. These minerals play a vital role in various industrial applications and national security, making their regulated exploration and mining essential.
Category: India Nation & States Current Affairs