India may rationalise Forest Conservation Act to aid mining clearances

The Indian government is looking to rationalise the Forest Conservation Act to expedite lengthy clearances required by miners, Sisir Kumar Ratho, additional director general of forests in the Ministry of Environment, told a conference, adding that the basic policy will be more objective.

Even though India is blessed with abundance of mineral wealth, many of the resources lie buried below forest land. The mining industry says it takes months and years to obtain clearances, which hampers the development of such resources.

Ratho said that the government is looking to cut down on the time taken for approvals, but warned that undue haste is bound to result in proposals getting stuck in litigation. 

Moreover, he said, allowing forest clearance needs to be carefully considered as it virtually amounts to signing a death warrant for the flora and fauna including native human populations. 

In response to an industry proposal that forest clearances should be automatically granted for any mining proposal pending beyond 12 months, Ratho said that such an issue will need to be examined in detail under existing laws.

While the Indian mining industry has adopted sustainability as a goal, the grant of environment, forest and wildlife clearances can take three to five years, said Sunil Duggal, president of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI).

“Thus, it is required to encourage streamlining the regulatory process to facilitate timely approvals for ease of doing mining in self-reliant India,” he said.

Duggal said the mining industry faced numerous obstacles in completing the Environmental Impact Assessment that is the most basic requirement.

“Minerals are site specific in nature and the majority of the deposits happen to be in forest areas. Thus, a balance is necessary between mineral development and conservation of forest and biodiversity for obtaining forest clearances,” he said.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at

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