The Mineral Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 was passed by the central government on March 11, 2020. An ordinance for the amendment was issued for the same in the month of January 2020. The bill has replaced the ordinance that was issued for the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act,1957 (MMDR Act), and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions Act),2015 (CMSP Act) which was communicated on 11th January 2020.
This comes as a hot topic due to the need of the hour. Yes, the need of enhancing ease of doing business in India and for this, amendments are being brought to existing acts and new bills are being introduced too.
This particular bill would lead to a new dawn in the Indian coal and mining sector which is the biggest industry that helps to increase developmental indexes.
Key features of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act,1957 (MMDR Act) are:-
- It regulates overall mining sector in India
- It constrained the uses of coal which has been amended now
- Regulates auction of minerals like coal and lignite
- Regulates mining leases
The Coal Mines (Special Provisions Act),2015 (CMSP Act) provides for the allocation and auction of the coal mines whose allocation was cancelled by the Supreme Court in the year 2014.
Schedule 1 of the Act provides a list of all mines that can be auctioned. Schedule 2 and 3 are sub-classes of the mines listed in Schedule 1.
The 2nd Schedule enlists the mines where work had already started before the Supreme Court’s verdict in 2014.
The 3rd Schedule of the Act contains the names of the mines that have been earmarked for specific end-use.
Basically the amendment has brought changes to the key features mentioned above. Restrictions have been lifted, ease of auctioning and leasing out has been done through this amendment.
CHANGES BROUGHT AFTER THE AMENDMENT
- Most importantly, end use of coal has been made flexible i.e. the restrictions imposed have been lifted to provide more avenues for the usage of the viable mineral.
Earlier, the coal was only allowed to be used for end specific purposes by companies.after the amendment, companies will be allowed to carry out coal mining operations for own consumption, sale and exchange or any other purpose as specified by the government.
- Not only the amendment has made it easier for the old players but those who are new to the game will also enjoy the rights to enter the business. No prior experience will be required in order to participate in the auction of coal and lignite blocks.
- A new license has also been added according to the amendment, named, prospecting license cum mining license. This license will help in carrying out both prospecting and mining activities. Prospecting activities include exploring,locating or finding mineral deposits. It is a composite license that would enable both the activities to take place, as earlier, both the activities were carried out with the help of different licenses of mining and prospecting.
MORE POWER TO STATE GOVERNMENT
- The amendment has also given more power to state governments to regulate the processes of lease renewing i.e. now, the state governments would be able to take decisions for auction of a mining before it’s expiry.
The state governments will also be able to grant licenses for coal and lignite in certain cases without prior permission from the central government.
This also includes the area where the central government has already allocated mines and the mining block has been reserved to conserve a mineral.
Under the Act, mining leases for specified minerals (minerals other than coal,lignite and atomic minerals) are auctioned on the expiry of the lease period.
All the licenses, permits and other legalities would also be given out by the state government soon after central government’s permission, if need be. Right now, prior permission of the centre is required to give out such documents.
- The bill also provides successor bidder with ample opportunities as all the previous approvals,licenses and clearances given to the previous lessee will be extended to the successful bidder for a period of two years. The new lessee would be able to continue mining operations. however,he/she might have to obtain all the documents within a period of two years.
The same goes for mining and leasing for specified minerals (minerals other than coal,lignite and atomic minerals). The new lessee will be required to obtain all the statutory clearances before starting mining operations.
This amendment will not only ease out the usage of coal, lignite, and other minerals but also help new people to come into trade and business of minerals that would not only help them personally but will also enhance the national and international trade of minerals. It would also add to the technological, economical and strategic development of the nation