New Delhi: The Union environment ministry has decided to extend approvals for atomic mineral mining for 50 years to ensure full utilization of reserves. The decision is in line with Atomic Mineral Concessions Rules 2016 which were notified last year.
Guidelines regarding extension of period of validity of approvals accorded under the Forest Conservation (FC) Act 1980 for diversion of forest land for mining of atomic minerals were released on 23 February.
The ministry issued the guidelines after the department of atomic energy (DEA) drew its attention to the Atomic Mineral Concessions Rules 2016 which say all mining leases under them shall be granted for a period until the entire reserves of such minerals in the mine is exhausted.
In line with those rules, DEA requested environment ministry that all “existing approvals issued to Uranium Corporation of India Ltd under the Forest Conservation Act may be extended till the ore body is exhausted, for the minerals listed in Part B, (Atomic Minerals) of the First Schedule of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act , 1957 (MMDR Act 1957)”.
The said schedule deals with atomic minerals like lithium-bearing minerals, minerals of the rare earths group containing Uranium and Thorium, phosphorites and other phosphatic ores containing uranium and others.
“In case of existing mining leases in respect of Atomic Minerals specified in Part B of the First Schedule of the MMDR Act 1957, period of validity of approvals accorded under the FC Act 1980 shall be extended and shall be deemed to have been extended up to a period co-terminus with the period of mining lease or a period of 50 years,” said the guidelines, reviewed by Mint.
Under the earlier rules, the land was diverted for mining for a period not exceeding 30 years.
India has 1,400 square km of atomic mineral-rich area.
The environment ministry, however, stipulated that the state government (where mine is situated) within one year shall realise the Net Present Value (NPV) of the forest land for which period of validity has been extended. NPV in this case is the money paid for forest land that is diverted for mining which is then used at other areas for afforestation and reforestation related work. The guidelines also clarified that they shall not apply to forest land falling in mining lease for which renewal has been rejected or lapsed. They have already been sent to all state governments.
The guidelines also said that in cases where forest clearance has already expired and has not been renewed, fresh forest clearances would be mandatorily required before the renewal of the lease.