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On National Mineral Policy 2019, industry says it needs to be put on steroids

The stakeholders from the industry were also of the view that the Right to first refusal caveat in the policy is a step back
New Delhi: At a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on National Mineral Policy 2019, stakeholders called for the implementation of the policy with a sense of urgency. In order to achieve this, they cited environmental clearance as a major hurdle in the process of mineral mining, called for prior clearances in order to ensure that projects get cleared quickly.

‘Industry needs prior green clearances’

While lauding the spirit of the policy, BRV Susheel Kumar, Director, Department of Mines and Geology with the government of Telangana, said, “The two-tier system of granting clearance delays projects. Environmental clearance should go concurrently with the mine development process.” Echoing the same sentiment, Bala Chandrashekhar, Joint Director at Department of Mines and Geology with the government of Andhra Pradesh, said that clearances should be sought before going for auction.

‘Policy should pivot towards reducing imports’

In order to reduce India’s dependence on mineral imports, Pradeep Agarwal, Additional Director at Department of Mines and Geology with the government of Rajasthan, suggested that the government should also focus on prioritising exploration of minerals that it has to import. “Potash is a technology that is found in Rajasthan but we do not have the technology to mine it. This needs to change,” Agarwal added.

‘Policy should be coupled with urgency’

While the National Mineral Policy’s vision to give industry status to mining was hailed unanimously, the various stakeholders were of the opinion that the policy needs to be implemented with a lot more urgency as India chases self-reliance, looks to switch to greener modes of transport and achieve ambitious mineral production targets. As the push to switch to electric vehicles intensifies, Dhiraj Nayyar, Chief Economist Vedanta Limited pointed out that copper is one of the minerals whose demand is going to increase massively as an EV engine comprises of 80 percent copper as opposed to a regular, petrol-diesel-based engine which uses 20 percent copper.

‘First Right of Refusal is a step back’

The stakeholders from the industry were also of the view that the Right to first refusal caveat in the policy is a step back. Earlier, if a firm that had a reconnaissance permit (RP) finds evidence of minerals, it had to inform the government. The government would then auction off the area. However, under the new policy, such firms will get the right of the first refusal i.e. the same firm would be given the area for mining. In its place, the stakeholders suggested conducting auctions on a first-come-first-serve basis — a policy that is followed by many mineral-rich nations, including Australia, across the globe.

Govt seeks synergy from stakeholders

On its part, the government urged the various stakeholders to ensure synergy so that the spirit of the policy gets translated into action plan. AK Nayak, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Government of India today said that National Mineral Policy (NMP) 2019, which aims to hike mineral production by 200 per cent in seven years, is a fine document but would need support from all stakeholders to make it a success. “The new policy is a very fine document, but it is up to all of us to make it a blueprint for action. Unless there is complete synergy among all stakeholders like industry, Central and state governments, regulators, it would be very difficult to make a headway,” Nayak said.