Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Lok Sabha passes amendments to mining law, declassifies lithium from atomic minerals

Photo by Dexter Fernandes on Unsplash

The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Friday, two days after it was introduced. This bill proposes to empower the Central government to exclusively auction mining leases and composite licences for 26 critical minerals in the country.

The Bill amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957.

For regulation, the Act classifies mining-related activities into reconnaissance, which involves a preliminary survey to determine mineral resources; prospecting, which includes exploring, locating, or proving mineral deposits, and mining, the commercial activity of extraction of minerals.

The Bill introduces an exploration licence that will be granted by the state government through competitive bidding.  The central government will prescribe details such as the manner of the auction, terms and conditions, and bidding parameters for exploration licences through rules.

The exploration licence will be issued for 29 minerals specified in the Seventh Schedule.  These include gold, silver, copper, cobalt, nickel, lead, potash, and rock phosphate.   These also include six minerals classified as atomic minerals under the Act: (i) beryl and beryllium, (ii) lithium, (iii) niobium, (iv) titanium, (v) tantallium, and (vi) zirconium.  The Bill declassifies them as atomic minerals.  Unlike other minerals, the prospecting and mining of atomic minerals is reserved for government entities under the Act.

According to PRS Legislative Research, If the resources are proven after exploration, the state government must conduct an auction for a mining lease within six months of the submission of the report by the exploration licensee.

The licensee will receive a share in the auction value of the mining lease for the mineral prospected by them.  The share will be prescribed by the central government.  If the state government does not complete the auction of the mining lease within the specified period, the state government will pay to the exploration licensee an amount prescribed by the central government.

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