New Delhi: The government has approved in principle a single environment and forest clearance for holders of 288 mining leases expiring in two years, a top official today said.

“The environment ministry has agreed that there will be no need to have a separate environment clearance and forest clearance to the new lease holders (of the 288 mines). They (environment ministry) are in the process of issuing necessary orders for it," Steel Secretary Aruna Sharma said here. She was speaking during India Mining Summit in New Delhi.

Asserting that she was in favour of a single-window system, Sharma said the auction of the expiring leases ought to be done in 2019. The leases of the 288 mines expire on 31 March, 2020.

Sharma added that the ministries of mines, steel and environment are working together in this regard. “I totally endorse the single-window system… It has to be put on the auction floor in 2019," Sharma said.

Of the 288 mining leases, 59 are working leases for key minerals like iron ore, manganese, and chromite. The government had in March set 1 April, 2019, as the deadline for general exploration of these 288 mining leases. The development followed amendment to the Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 2017.

The government had said the auction process needs to be initiated well in advance to ensure a seamless transition from existing to new lessees so that mineral production is not affected.

Earlier, the Centre had issued a directive stating all existing leases have to be brought to an exploration level of G2 (general exploration) or G1 (detailed exploration) in five years’ time.

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