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Reduce mining area, set aside 26 per cent profit for affected people in the new bill, demands MM&P

By Our Representative
Mines, Minerals & People (MM&P), a national alliance of over 200 mining affected communities and support groups, has taken strong exception to a new provision in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015, which seeks to increase the area limits for license and mining lease, without specifying any ceiling. The current ceiling is 10 km.
Saying that this would spell "a death-knell for people living in mineral rich regions", MM&P insists, "Even developed mining economies like Australia are reducing mining lease areas to avoid non-mineralised zones in lease areas. In Australia, maximum lease area allowed was 10 square km till 2006 and now it is limited to the area of ore bodies in a prospected site plus infrastructure for mineral concession."
The Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha and awaiting Rajya Sabha nod, is before Parliament's select committee for review. MM&P president Ravi Rebbapragda and general secretary Ashok Shrimali, a Gujarat-based activist, are seeking intervention by committee members not to allow the bill to be passed in Parliament in its current form. The bill seeks to convert a recently-promulgated ordinance by the Government of India.
Also taking exception to the proposal to set up a District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in the Bill, the MM&P says, with this, "the social commitment towards development of affected communities has been significantly watered down." It adds, "It represents moving away from the concept of benefit sharing", which was there in earlier versions of June 2010 Bill, which allowed "provision of granting 26 per cent ownership".
In fact, according to MM&P, "the MMDR bill is completely silent on obtaining consent from the communities before mining operations are initiated especially in tribal regions", demanding, "All applications for mining concessions should be put before the Gram Sabha. As a practice, Gram Sabha should be convened to discuss the proposals and accept objections for at least 30 days thereafter."
MM&P further objects to extending the duration of a mining lease to 50 years. "This would affect effective and strict scrutiny. This will have serious implications to intergenerational equity. Ideally the duration of lease should be 10 years with provisions for renewal only on strict compliance", it believes. Till now, a mining lease was allowed for a maximum of 30 years and a minimum of 20 years that could be renewed for 20 years.
Then, MM&P says, the bill "does not include definitions of affected persons and reasonable compensation", says MM&P, adding, there is a need to clearly define ‘affected persons’ that captures "the social, cultural and environmental impacts. It should not only include people losing lands to a mining project, but also people whose livelihood is affected." And, the compensation amount should be linked to inflation.
These changes are needed, according to MM&P, because the states "richest" in mineral resources are also amongst India’s poorest. "Chhattisgarh’s mineral contribution to GDP is 12 per cent but it reports the second highest incidence of poverty amongst all Indian states (47 per cent), after Bihar. "An estimated 1.64 lakh of forestland has been diverted; 90 per cent of India’s coal and 80 per cent of other minerals are found in areas inhabited by tribals".

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