Rajya Sabha clears mining bill without too much fuss

20 Mar 2015


The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, seeking to introduce the system of auction of mining blocks to enhance transparency passed the Rajya Sabha today, ensuring that it will be enacted to replace an earlier ordinance.

The upper house rejected a motion to send the bill again to a select committee.

The bill envisages spending of a fixed percentage of revenue generated from mining on the development of the local area.

Under its provisions, there will be no renewal of any mining concessions, unlike in the original act of 1957. Also, the licence will be for 50 years as against 30 now, after which there will be no renewal but compulsory auction.

The government has already identified 199 mines for auction.

On Thursday, the opposition had forced deferment of consideration of the potentially contentious bill on the ground that states had not been consulted.

Congress members even stormed the well of the house amid demands that the bill be again sent to the select committee, which had already scrutinised the proposed legislation and presented its report to the house on Wednesday. The committee had proposed no changes.

The 19-member panel on the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2015 that provides for allocating coal mines through auction, referred the bill to the house for passage without any change.

But the report did contain five dissenting notes from Digvijaya Singh, P Bhattacharya and Rajeev Shukla (all Cong), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and K N Balagopal (CPI-M).

The committee on the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill too did not seek change in any of the clauses.

However, it wanted the government to consider at a later stage issues like the impact of mining activities on the environment, rampant illegal mining, lack of proper and scientific mine closure, land acquisition and resettlement issues, and capturing any windfall profits for the welfare of local and tribal communities.

"The committee, in view of limited ambit of amending Bill under its consideration, is of the opinion that these issues are of utmost significance that warrant serious consideration by the government.

The Committee, therefore, recommended that the ministry should consider these issues to be incorporated subsequently in the MMDR Act, 1957 at an appropriate stage as well as in the relevant rules/regulations required to be framed there under," it said.

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