The Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on Friday approved the new Mining Draft Bill, including the provision that mining companies share 26 per cent of profits with local people affected by their projects. This could pave the way for the historic legislation.

“It has been largely approved. One more sitting of GoM remains to tie up the loose ends after which the draft legislation will go to the Union Cabinet for approval. Whatever we have suggested has by and large been approved. We will work on it,” Mines Minister B.K. Handique told reporters after the meeting.

The new provision for 26 per cent share in profits, instead of the originally proposed share in equity, was suggested by Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

The inclusive development agenda involving the local population and tribals is being seen as a landmark decision of the UPA government in ensuring equal share in profits and development to the local populace.

“The final draft legislation with the new approved changes will now be placed before the GoM for its approval. Then it will be sent to the Cabinet and the final legislation is likely to be introduced during the winter session of Parliament, beginning in November,” a senior Minister said.

New fund

The new draft Bill has proposed that a fund, called the District Mineral Foundation, be created and the beneficiaries be paid from it. Besides, it proposes that in case of a mine becoming non-functional or suffering losses, the firms should compensate those affected by land acquisition, by paying them an amount equal to the royalty given to the State governments.

Mr. Handique said the Bill will replace the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act (MMDR Act), 1957. The legislation is being framed amid concerns voiced by UPA chief Sonia Gandhi over land acquisition norms. Besides Mr. Mukherjee, Mr. Handique and Mr. Ramesh, the GoM includes Ministers P. Chidambaram (Home), Virbhadra Singh (Steel), Veerappa Moily (Law and Justice), Anand Sharma (Commerce), K. Bhuria (Tribal Affairs) and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

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