The mining industry has once again sought the government's intervention to prevent denial of mining rights to existing mineral explorers under the new reform initiative that seeks to establish a seamless Composite Exploration-cum-Mining-cum-Production License (CEMPL) regime by amending the MMDR Act, 1957.
In a letter to Mines Secretary Sushil Kumar, the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) has sought the ministry's intervention to ensure policy certainty and security of existing vested rights under Section 10A(2)(b) of the MMDR Act as it would go a long way in restoring the investors' confidence in the Indian mineral sector.
In this regard, the federation has asked the Mines Ministry to immediately organise a stakeholders meeting where all those affected by the repealing of Section 10A (2)(b) can make their submissions.
Immediately after the announcement of new reform initiative as part of 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat package' by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in May, the FIMI had shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking similar relief for existing miners.
"...we gather from media reports that Government intends to do away with Section 10A(2)(b) of the MMDR Act, 1957 wherein existing concessionaires (RP/PL holders or reconnaissance permit and prospecting license holders) have already been guaranteed seamless transition to the mining stage. This would amount to 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'," it had said in its letter to the PM.
"...we request you to kindly advise the Ministry of Mines to ensure/protect the rights of existing concessionaires by not removing or tweaking Section 10A(2)(b) and in fact bring in provisions where existing concessionaires covered under Section 10A(2)(b) are immediately granted mining rights seamlessly," the letter signed by FIMI Secretary General R.K. Sharma had said.
As part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by the Finance Minister, she had also announced a structural reform initiative for the mineral sector that allows offering composite mineral exploration licences to bidders. About 500 mineral blocks would be offered to companies under this regime.
The FIMI has said that while the reform initiative for the mineral sector was welcome, it should not come at the cost of existing investors and explorers who have have invested huge resources and long years to undertake risky exploration activities and have helped India to discover valuable mineral deposits.
"Hundreds of PL and RPs have been issued to mineral companies in India. The 2015 amendment to the MMDR Act gave them hope of getting mining leases of mineral bearing areas that have been explored and prospected by them. But, if changes in the legislation makes every thing available prospectively without benefit being extended to existing license holders", the FIMI had said in its letter to the PM, "it will lead to irreparable loss of investor confidence in the Indian mineral sector, apart from multiple litigations in courts".