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Govt. reverts to 'early bird' system

By Our Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD, NOV. 10. In a major policy shift, the Chief Minister Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu on Friday announced the Government's decision to revert to the first-come-first-served system of granting mining reconnaissance permits, dispensing with the existing tender system.

Mr. Naidu was speaking after inaugurating a seminar on ``Mining in the new millennium,'' organised by the Mining Engineers Association of India (MEAI) at the Indian Institution of Engineers here. Official sources said the Government gave in to the demand of the mining industry to grant permits as provided for in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, notwithstanding the revenue implications, as exploration of mines fell in the high risk, long gestation and no guaranteed returns category.

The Chief Minister said his Government took up with the Union Government, the mining sector's another long pending demand for conferring the status of industry on it, for facilitating easier credit flow. He was hopeful of the Union Government considering the recommendation favourably.

The Government was also working on a programme for processing applications and administration of related matters online, so that application from anywhere in the world could be made on a specific location in the State.

Mr. Naidu said mining had been identified as one of the important growth engines in the Vision 2020 document

and achieve a growth rate of 10 to 12 per cent by tapping the untapped and under-tapped mineral wealth through private participation. It was with this view that the Government had appointed Price Waterhouse as consultant to suggest specific incentives for positioning investment and achieving the targeted growth.

Realising that the importance of infrastructure in the mining sector, he said the Government was leveraging on the advantages of having a long coastline by developing 12 minor ports and intermediate ports. Three ports at Krishnapatnam, Kakinada and Vodarevu had already been privatised. A programme of upgrading 1400 km of highways into expressways with private sector participation had also been taken up.

He said the specific timeframe announced for grant of mineral concessions in June 1998, had evoked a good response, leading to a substantial increase in grant of leases in the last two years. The Government would create a congenial atmosphere to facilitate investment by the private sector in this area.

Mr. Naidu said in the new millennium, mining and information technology would have to be integrated. It would also have to undertake the complex task of balancing resource optimisation with environment, community and economic considerations. With increased environmental awareness and ill effects of mining on health, opposition to mining operations had been mounting. Mining therefore needed to use best technologies for economic exploitation as well as arresting environmental degradation.

Mrs. Minnie Mathew, Secretary, Department of Industries and Commerce, lamented that the restoration and re-vegetation of mining areas continued to be a neglected area and wanted the mining industry to pay due attention to these aspects. Mining industry would have to dispel the impression that it was hostile to environment by sticking to standards of safety, health and environment.

Mr. T. V. Chowdary, president, MEAI and Director, Mining department, said the State Government's two- year old decision on fixing a time frame for clearance mining lease applications, had become a model for other States. He appealed to the Chief Minister to reconsider the Government's decision of withdrawing allotment of one acre at Madhapur near here, to MEAI for locating its national headquarters. Mr. Naidu promised to look into the issue.

The Chief Minister released a souvenir brought out on the occasion. The Mines and Geology Minister, Mrs. A. Uma Madhav Reddy, attended. Mr. M. Gopalakrishna, former IAS officer, delivered the keynote address.

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