India: Centre may extend approvals for lapsing mining leases

Date: Feb 11, 2019

The Government of India is mulling extending the validity of key statutory approvals like environment and forestry clearances by three years in respect of mining leases headed for expiry by March 31, 2020.

The step, if implemented, will ensure hassle-free auctions of the mines besides facilitating seamless change in ownership.

“Environment and forest clearances are considered to be major irritants to auction mines. To overcome them, the central government is considering an option to extend the validity of the expiring mining leases by three years. The onus will be on the new owners to renew the extended clearances,” said a source in the know.

A total of 288 mineral blocks are lapsing by March 31, 2020. Of this, 59 are working mines. The lease validity of these assets was extended till that period after an amendment was made to the Mines and Minerals Development & Regulation Act. Goa has the most number of mines, at 160, that are headed for expiry. Karnataka and Odisha, with 45 and 31 mining leases, respectively, come next.

On the sidelines of the recent International Conference on Aluminium (INCAL) 2019, Union mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar had said his ministry is on track to auction the mines lapsing by March 2020.

Mineral-bearing states who dragged their feet on auctions of the lapsing blocks have been getting repeated reminders from the Union ministry of mines to prepare the roadmap for a transition. These states are scrambling to prepare blocks lapsing by March 31, 2020, for auctions. The urgency to ready the mineral blocks for auction stems from the recent notification of the Draft Mineral Concession and Development- MCDR (Amendment) Rules, 2018 by the Government of India.

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