To sustain growth of the mining industry in the Country, the Union Minister of State for Steel & Mines Mr Vishnu Deo Sai has emphasised the need for a comprehensive approach so that the potential benefits of the sector are realised.
Inaugurating the ASSOCHAM Conference on Mining in Odisha, Mr Sai said minerals are indispensable in the modern society and mining activities enable access to the much needed minerals. Mining industry is one of the core sectors and is a barometer of overall health of the economy and industrial output. A vibrant mining industry is a bedrock of any industrial nation particularly when it is endowed with huge mineral potential as in the case of India. The rationale extends to Odisha which is one of the major states in India, both in terms of mining output and industrial production.
However, mining in India is beset with uneconomical scale and limited mechanization / automation. While we have come a long way in terms of technology upgradation and modernization, there is still lot of potential left for improvement. It is apparent in terms of the average size of mines in India, safety standards and overall viability of mines. The number of mines which reported mineral production (excluding minor minerals, petroleum (crude), natural gas and atomic minerals) in India was 3318 in FY2015 as against 3722 in the previous financial year. Of the 3318 reporting mines, 173 mines were located in Odisha. The average size of the mines in Odisha is equally small as in the other states in India. While it is understood that this assessment is dependent on the mineral (eg. gold vs coal) and the underlying geology, the fact cannot be done away with that India needs to take decisive steps towards modernization of its mining industry.
Mr Prafulla Kumar Malik, Minister of State (I/C) for Steel and Mines said, Odisha is also the first State in the country to issue rules for the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) – a body created to bring far reaching changes in India’s mining regulations, MMDR Act. The new rules however, raised some concerns as they have failed to define any role for the mining companies who are among the major stakeholders and will be significantly impacted by the operations of the new regulations. While declined in mineral production has been the general trend in the country, faster decline in the state warrants a closer look at the state specific issues affecting mineral production in the country.
As per the recent amendment of MMDR Act, 2015 the transfer of mineral concessions shall be allowed only for concessions which are granted through auction. However, there is no provision for transfer of mining lease and prospecting licenses (captive mines) which were allocated earlier on first come – first serve basis.
The National Mineral Policy well recognizes that extraction of mineral closely impacts other natural resources like land, water, air and forest. The areas in which minerals occur often have other resources, presenting a choice of utilization of the resources. Some such areas are ecologically fragile and some are biologically rich. It is necessary to take a comprehensive view to facilitate the choice or order of land use keeping in view the needs of development as well as needs of protecting the forests, environment and ecology.
Prevention and mitigation of adverse environmental effects due to mining of minerals and repairing and re-vegetation of the affected forest area and land covered by trees in accordance with the latest internationally acceptable norms and modern afforestation practices needs to form an integral part of mine development strategy in every instance.
Mr T.K. Chand, Chairman ASSOCHAM National Council on Mines and Mineral & CMD Nalco said, mining in India has tremendous potential to grow manyfold. For actualization of this potitential mining has to be done scientifically conforming to sustainability parameters to unleash benefits to the people.
Mr R.K. Sharma, Principal Secretary, department of Steel and Mines, government of Odisha said, there is need to upscale the exploration activities with an am to upgrade the mineral deposit within reginable time frame. Private exploration companies should come and setup office for exploration activities. Environment and forest clearance should be take care by equal participation from industry and government.
Mr Abhijit Pati , CEO-Aluminium Business , Vedanta Ltd in his address stressed on the fact that Odisha has immense potential if it can leverage its mineral resources effectively and with urgency. He said that the need of the hour is to have a better mining governance by attracting the best in mining with state of the art technology, knowledge and skill set. He urged the state for developing a world class Mining Research Centre at Odisha so that a coordinated effort can be initiated by the centre to work in the direction of a vibrant and responsible mining drive for the state. He mentioned that we have to negate the notion of ‘Prosperity underneath and poverty above’ in context of Odisha.
Other Speakers who also spoke during the conference were Mr H.S. Chhatwal, Senior Managing Committee Member and Mr D.S. Rawat, Secretary General, ASSOCHAM.