GoM to discuss illegal mining, iron ore export ban

A Group of Ministers (GoM) will discuss on Thursday issues pertaining to illegal mining, a ban on iron ore exports, the new mining legislation and setting aside a share in the profits of mining companies for the development of tribal areas.

Officials of the Ministry of Mines said Minister B.K. Handique was pushing for the Ministry's proposal to make mining companies in tribal areas shell out a part of their equity, and other operators a part of their profits for those affected.

The 10-member GoM, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, will discuss the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, aimed at attracting domestic and foreign investment in mining and making the grant of mining concessions transparent and expeditious. It will also go into illegal mining and strengthening of the provisions in the legislation. The divergent views of the Ministry of Steel and the Ministry of Mines over a ban on iron ore exports too will be discussed.

Officials said the aim of making the companies set aside a part of their equity or profits was to ensure development of these tribal areas through a corpus fund. This money could be placed at the disposal of the local administration for the welfare of the people. This, the government reckoned, would help to contain the rising protests against mining in tribal areas.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is up against these provisions. It has even written to the Prime Minister.

It argues that companies sharing profits with the affected people will amount to people earning money without any effort, and this will lead to greater inequalities and socio-economic problems, besides making mining unviable.

Besides Messrs Mukherjee and Handique, the GoM comprises Home Minister, P. Chidambaram; Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh; Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily; Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh; Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma; Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria; and Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal; and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

After the deliberations, the Bill will be sent to the Union Cabinet for approval before it is introduced in Parliament.

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