Govt mulls scrapping requirement of forest clearance for exploration of blocks
New Delhi: The mines ministry has proposed to do away with the requirement of obtaining forest clearance for exploration of mineral blocks, a move that would lead to auction of more mines and augment the country's mineral output. The proposal requires further amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act and the ministry has sought comments from the stakeholders on the proposed changes.
"Accordingly, a provision may be inserted in the MMDR Act to provide that any reconnaissance or prospecting operations undertaken within the period specified in MMDR Act in a forest land shall not be considered as diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980," the ministry said in a note.
Reconnaissance Permit (RP) is granted for preliminary prospecting of a mineral through regional, aerial, geophysical or geochemical surveys and geological mapping.
Prospecting Licence (PL) means a licence granted for the purpose of undertaking a search with a view to exploring, locating or proving mineral deposits.
In a bid to enable the auction of more blocks and to enhance the production of minerals, more exploration is required to be conducted, the note said. A high-level committee of NITI Aayog had earlier recommended that "there should not be any requirement of forest clearance for undertaking exploration."
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had issued a consultation paper on the proposed amendments in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and invited comments/suggestions of state governments and the public on the same.
As stated in the consultation paper, survey and investigation activities such as reconnaissance and prospecting operations (exploration) do not cause any perceptible change in the forest land or the biodiversity thereon.
No permanent diversion of forest land for non-forest activities is required for such activities and these activities are for a short duration of 3-5 years.
Also, the ratio of conservation of exploration activities to mining activity is 100:1.
"In order to enable auction of more blocks and to enhance production of minerals, more exploration is required to be conducted. Mining operations can be undertaken in an area only after the existence of minerals is established in the said area," the ministry said, adding that necessary forest clearance would anyway be taken before start of mining operations.
Further, state governments may prescribe the manner of granting permission for carrying out such reconnaissance or prospecting operations.