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Free lunch era is over, Piyush Goyal tells mining industry

Coming down heavily on the mining industry over concessions and freebies, Mines Minister Piyush Goyal on Monday said the time of “free lunches” is over.

Goyal, who also heads ministries of Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, said the industry should look at an era of transparency, fair play, concern for labour and health and happiness of the people impacted by mining.

Speaking at industry body Federation of Indian Mineral Industries’ annual conclave, the minister said that the argument on reducing import duty on iron ore does not hold much ground.

“Argument is that you want to export mineral out, but there is a local demand which continues to import from abroad.”

You will not correct your prices to meet that demand, but would rather let leave it in stock or rather export it or wait for government to give you that concession to export,” he said.

He further said: “So to my mind, things have changed. I may be sounding harsh to you, but I think it’s time that we all recognise that national interest will prevail over industry interest. Free lunches are over...”

Goyal said that the government wants the industry to have a greater degree of competition as well as wants there to be a fair availability of materials.On extension of non-captive mines, the Minister said: “It is enough that government has given extension to non-captive mines till 2020. This you (miners) got free of charge, you are minting money out of that. Let the nation also get some money out of it which can go for public welfare.

“So be happy about 2020 and don’t push me to reconsider that by going for 2030. We (government) have thought this through in great detail, including in the Cabinet...”Attacking the sector on freebies, he said: “There is a good bank balance created in the last 50-100 years. You got free mines. What you did not labour (employees), broke labour laws, we all know. “So let bygones be bygones, look at it as an era of transparency, fair play, concern for labour and the health and happiness of the people impacted and be concerned for the environment and be conscious of paying your taxes...”

He, however, said that mineral industry has an extremely important role to play in creating national wealth.

On mineral exploration, he said: “You raised a point that no industry has survived or thrived based on exploration being carried out by the government. I can fully agree with you on that.

“But other than a few rogue nations or banana republics, no nation in the world has the kind of corruption and evasion of taxes and illegalities that probably we have created over the last many years. “After all why would Supreme Court cancel 204 coal blocks and declare them illegal and arbitrary allotments, he added. Also in some parts of the world such as Australia and the US, land area is vast and few people are interested in exploration, but in India, it is completely opposite, the minister explained.          

This government works with a special concern for environment, social issues, individual and collective labour problems like health & general wellbeing, among others, Goyal told the gathering.

The industry has to function with the aim of larger good of the society instead of pursuing a profit making approach, he added.

He asked the domestic mining fraternity to make collective efforts to bring reform in the functioning of the sector by infusing transparency and honesty and help all the stakeholders to reap the benefits of India’s mineral wealth equitably.Goyal said that the Nation’s efforts should focus on leveraging high value added minerals available in the country.

There is a need to develop a matrix which concentrates on such minerals and dovetails into itself the import substitution element.

Earlier, Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar said that the government has announced the National Mineral Exploration Policy to boost mining activity in the country.

It has engaged SBI CAP for working out the modalities for the auction of 100 blocks, which have been identified by the Geological Survey of India (GSI).

To boost exploration, the Ministry has asked GSI to take up 30 blocks in 2016-17 and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd MECL for 30 blocks as well as central and state PSUs will be given 20 blocks.

“They will take these blocks G4 level of exploration by next March-April. If there is potential for mining in these blocks then they will take these blocks to G3 level. Then We will auction ML-cum-PL (Mining lease-cum-Prospecting Lease),” he added.

The Secretary said that the policy is almost finalised for the remaining 20 blocks.

“What we will do it that we will engage agencies and ask them to take up work for exploration on contractual basis,” Kumar said.

On Aero-geophysical survey of 8 lakh sq km, he said the Ministry has engaged a Canadian consultant and RFP has been issued last week.

“Now by November, the Ministry will engage a global level exploration agency. By April, first round of aero-geophysical survey will be done, which is around 2 lakh sq km of area,” Kumar said.On mine auctions, he said that Notice Inviting Tenders (NITs) have been issued for 36 blocks.

“We know that response was not encouraging due to factors such as small size of mine, location or the quality of the resource. 

Centre has advised states to consult stakeholders and then go for re-bidding of the blocks. We expect to auction 50 blocks by this fiscal end,” the Mines Secretary added. 
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