Resource Digest - - MINING -

In­dia’s min­ing sec­tor is all set to get the Modi push. Aim­ing to in­crease min­eral pro­duc­tion by Rs 4 lakh crore in five years, the mines min­istry will press spe­cial air­crafts into ser­vice in six months to un­der­take an am­bi­tious four-year aerial geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey over 8 lakh sq km, which is one fourth of the coun­try.

And that’s not all. A new ex­plo­ration watch­dog has been set up. A new ex­plo­ration pol­icy will also be out in two months. Auc­tion­ing of iden­ti­fied blocks has been put on the fast-track as well.

Through this push the gov­ern­ment is look­ing at mas­sive in­vest­ments, new in­dus­tries, and man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs. This will also check costly im­ports of min­er­als and en­hance ex­ports of value-added prod­ucts.

For aerial ex­plo­ration, the gov­ern­ment will not rely on its cen­turies-old ex­plo­ration ally - the Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia (GSI) - but take the global ten­der route.

The mines min­istry, which sur­veys and ex­plores all ma­jor min­er­als (ex­clud­ing coal, nat­u­ral gas and petroleum), on Wed­nes­day wrote to the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO) about its plans for aerial geo­phys­i­cal sur­veys. The min­istry has started the process of hir­ing con­sul­tants to help find an agency for th­ese sur­veys.

In­dian firms can also ap­ply, but the task at hand sug­gests those in Aus­tralia, Canada, the UK, the US and South Africa could be in the run­ning, said min­istry sources.

“Th­ese high-res­o­lu­tion sur­veys of de­posits will ex­po­nen­tially en­hance In­dia’s prow­ess and achieve global stan­dards in ex­plor­ing min­er­als, brin­ing in mas­sive in­vest­ments into the largely un­der­ex­ploited min­ing sec­tor,” union mines sec­re­tary Balvin­der Ku­mar said.

The mines min­istry last month set up a Na­tional Min­eral Ex­plo­ration Trust to look into ways to en­cour­age ex­plo­ration. The draft of a Na­tional Min­eral Ex­plo­ration Pol­icy is also ready.

“We in­tend to seek the ap­proval of the union cab­i­net in two months,” the min­istry’s let­ter to the PMO says.

The pol­icy will en­cour­age the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the pri­vate sec­tor in min­eral ex­plo­ration. The value of min­eral pro­duc­tion in

In­dia has come down from Rs 2,85,761 crore (about 2.4% of the GDP) in 2012-13 to Rs 2.27,000 crore in 2014-14.

“The aim is in­crease con­tri­bu­tion of min­ing to GDP to 6 per cent. That’s roughly an in­crease of Rs 4 lakh crore,” said an­other of­fi­cial of the min­istry.

The min­istry has ad­mit­ted that near-sur­face blocks in In­dia are fast de­plet­ing. There is also a de­cline in the rate of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of such ore de­posits. The gov­ern­ment is look­ing for mod­ern ways to ex­plore new ar­eas for both near-sur­face and deep seated de­posits.

“The GSI sur­veys 50-60,000 sq km in a year. They will take about 15 years at this rate. And they have only one air­craft. That’s why we’re tak­ing the global ten­der route. The firm we will even­tu­ally hire will use 6 spe­cial air­crafts and do two 8-hour sor­ties a day,” said an­other min­istry of­fi­cial.

Th­ese sur­veys will be done in Kar­nataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Te­lan­gana, Odisha, Jhark­hand, Mad­hya Pradesh, Ra­jasthan and fringe ar­eas of Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat. This will cost around Rs 1,500 crore.

The over­all geo­phys­i­cal sur­vey that the min­istry is look­ing at will re­quire Rs 4,000 crore.

The min­istry is the apex body for leg­is­la­tion, ad­min­is­tra­tion, and pol­icy for­mu­la­tion for min­ing and met­al­lurgy of met­als like alu­minum, cop­per, zinc, lead, gold and nickel.

States auc­tion min­ing blocks and get roy­alty from com­pa­nies. States also con­trol mi­nor min­er­als such as sand, sand­stone and gran­ite.

Find­ing new blocks is the not the only chal­lenge here. States are strug­gling to auc­tion the 80-90 iden­ti­fied ones.

The min­istry has writ­ten to the PMO that most states lack man­power and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise to carry out auc­tion­ing in near fu­ture. The min­istry has de­cided to go for “hand­hold­ing” by draft­ing its own PSUs to start the first phase of auc­tion­ing from Novem­ber.

“Dur­ing the last decade, In­dia has wit­nessed a growth rate of above 6%. If we want to get to 9-10%, the min­ing sec­tor has to play a very im­por­tant role,” said a min­ing min­istry of­fi­cial.

There are se­ri­ous con­cerns, too. Most of In­dia’s min­eral de­posits are in Naxal-af­fected, tribal and back­ward ar­eas. The lo­cal pop­u­la­tion and the dense for­est cover are of­ten a vic­tim of min­ing.

“We no­ti­fied a scheme that will es­sen­tially ex­tract about Rs 6,000 crore ev­ery year from min­ing for the wel­fare of lo­cals,” said Ku­mar.


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