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Mines and Minerals Bill

The Mines and Minerals Bill, drafted by the Indian government proposes to make it mandatory for 26% of mining profits to be shared by locals. It aims to ensure that tribals are not alienated from their own land. If enacted, the Bill will also help in thwarting illegal mining activities.
India: Draft bill proposes mining profits for locals. A new Mines and Minerals Bill, vigorously opposed by the mininglobby, will, if enacted, make it mandatory for 26% of the profits to be shared with the locals. Under it, licences can only be given to companies that make a full disclosure of their mine closure plans (filling up old mines) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.

This is a big move. A top ministry official said similar legislations in South Africa and Peru had gone a long way to give the affected local communities a say in the matter.

“This is a collective decision of the government — the first time that we are making it legally binding on mining firms to make sure the tribals are not alienated from their own land. All miningwill have to be done on behalf of the tribal people.” They, and other local groupings, will receive a part of the profits generated via a tribal development board. Mining ministry mandarins hope, these measures will help silence critics of the country’s current development strategies, which have been enriching multinationals and pauperising the landowners.

Expectedly, top among the opponents of this policy is the miningindustry which fears it will eat into their profits. “The idea of allotting 26% of the profit to the local people looks good. But how will this system work?” asks Neelav Samrat De, Deputy Director, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). “Our fear is that the companies will be put to unbearable pressures by the local people who will never be satisfied”, he adds.

Sensitive it certainly is. Tens of thousands of impoverished people have been displaced, in most cases without being compensated for their ‘stolen’ lands. But if the new legislationhas teeth, and does not end up as just another piece of worthless government stationery, the companies will be duty-bound to furnish a credible CSR blueprint when applying formining licenses. “The realisation is finally dawning on the government that this is not charity but responsibility. The multinationals will be welcome only if they are convinced that their activities will benefit them, not hurt them,” says R Sreedhar, convenor, Mines, Mineral and People.

However, the Bill is not just about social justice. It examines a host of other industry concerns, such as notification of the mineral-rich areas and protection of existing mines. The ministry says that though it has been careful to take into account the interests of the mining firms, they continue to complain that costs would shoot up to unmanageable levels. “But our point is that if the cost is low today it’s only because it is being paid for by the environment and the people left poorer. We are working on a recurring income plan for families whose land has been taken over by mining.”

Will it actually happen? If it does, then illegal mining across the country will actually be a thing of the past.
 
 

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