The mining industry has once again sought the government's intervention to prevent denial of mining rights to existing 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 its submission to the Mines Ministry as part of the stakeholders' consultation process on the proposed reforms in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the mining industry has said that policy certainty and security of existing vested rights under Section 10A(2)(b) of the MMDR Act should be maintained in the new law as it would go a long way in restoring the investors' confidence in the Indian mineral sector.
Under the 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat package' by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in May, the government proposed the CEMPL for mining sector. This raised fear that under the new law, rights of existing mineral explorers would be taken away as seamless transfer of licence would be permitted prospectively under the new composite scheme and not otherwise.
"We request 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," industry chambers and associations such as FICCI, Assocham, and FIMI have 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 industry 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," an earlier letter written by the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) to the Prime Minister had said.
The government proposes to finalise the changes in the MMDR over next few days before the amendment bill is put before the Cabinet for approval. Sources said considering the urgency of reforms, an ordinance may be promulgated to to change the mining laws.
The ministry has also sought bringing in provisions on deemed lease rights to help companies to go ahead with mineral extraction if lease grant is delayed by the government.
Further, the period of 2 years provided under Section 10A(2)(c) may be increased if delay is for reasons beyond applicant's control, the industry has sought.