Indian parliament passes bill to boost private investment in mining amid opposition protests

The Indian parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 which seeks to bring more reforms in mining sector for boosting private investment and creating more jobs.

However, opposition parties demanded a select committee scrutiny of the bill, saying the government may face the same backlash against this Bill as they are in the case of farm laws.

Assuring members in Rajya Sabha, Mines Minister Prahlad Joshi said the “progressive” bill will not curb the powers of states while creating more jobs. The Bill was passed by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha. It was passed in Lok Sabha on March 19, 2021.

The Bill seeks to create employment opportunities and also allow private players in mining activities that would bring in modern technology. Allaying concerns of the members about the Bill curtailing states’ powers, the minister told the Upper House, “I assure you that not a single iota of power of state will be snatched or taken away by this bill.”

On the demand of the Parliamentary standing committee scrutiny, he said, “Wide consultations on bill were held. The bill was circulated to states and 10,500 comments were received. As many as 10 association and six NGOs had recorded their comments.”

The minister submitted before the House that the funds allocated for exploring mines remained largely under utilised as they don’t have the capacity to explore.

The mining sector contributes around 7 to 7.5 per cent of the GDP in countries like South Africa and Australia which are just as mineral-rich as India. However, in India, the mining sector’s contribution is merely 2.5 per cent to the GDP.

“Major reason why we are lacking in the mining sector is we do not have explored mines. Only 10 per cent of the Obvious Geological Potential (OGP) area we have explored so far and out of that, in only 5 per cent of OGP we are mining,” the minister said, adding that in countries such as Australia and South Africa 70 to 80 per cent of OGP is mined.

The government is proposing to make National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) an autonomous and professional body, which would provide fund for exploration, Joshi added.

The MMDRA bill has already taken the District Mineral Fund away from the states, as reported here.

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