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Business News/ News / India/  Gati Shakti to help speed up auction of critical minerals
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Gati Shakti to help speed up auction of critical minerals

States allowed to access their own records or data from PM Gati Shakti to demarcate zones


The central government has expedited the auctioning of vital minerals like lithium to the private sector by authorizing states to use their own records as well as the online resources of PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan for demarcating mining areas.

Around 90 mining blocks, comprising minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel, titanium, phosphorus, gold and silver, are set to be auctioned by the Centre by the end of the year.

The revised land demarcation and classification rules are also expected to streamline the identification of well-defined mining zones, which will further facilitate the auction process.

“Through the amendment made on 1 September 2023, in the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015, it is provided that where details of the land is available on the PM Gati Shakti-National Master Plan for Multi-modal Connectivity platform or land record portal of state governments or other government authority, the state government may use such details for classification of land," a mines ministry spokesperson said in a reply to Mint’s queries.

“It will help in expediting the process of land demarcation and classification, and preparing blocks for auctions faster, as searching offline records takes considerable time."

Earlier, the 2015 mineral auction regulations mandated identification and demarcation of the proposed mineral blocks using total station and differential global positioning system (DGPS) technology, before the mining leases were granted.

The demarcated areas were then categorized into forest land, state-owned land, and non-state-owned land. This information on demarcation and classification was provided in tender documents for the bidders’ reference.

However, considering that this process was conducted offline, it often led to delays in the auctions of mines. By using the online records from states and PM Gati Shakti initiative, the demarcation process is expected to become simpler as well as more efficient, reducing the time required to initiate the auctions, said experts.

PM Gati Shakti seeks to bring all relevant ministries and departments of the central government together, and create a digital platform for comprehensive and integrated project planning. This includes dynamic mapping of all infrastructure projects with real-time updates. The data from all individual ministries will be integrated into a single platform, facilitating planning, review, and monitoring.

“The amendments to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, carried out in the monsoon session have given powers to the Centre to auction critical and strategic minerals and pass on all revenue, surpluses and royalty to the states. As states depend on geological studies approved by the states for auctioning a mineral block, specific provision has now been made seeking states to even consider their own land records or that of any other government authority, and those available in PM Gati Shakti Master Plan before designating the mining areas for auction of critical minerals," the official said.

The new Act also empowers the government to exclusively auction mining leases as well as composite exploration licences for critical high-value minerals, and the changes in rules would make the process far more transparent and attract investors, the official added.

In July, the government had released a list of 30 critical minerals for India, including antimony, beryllium, bismuth, cobalt, copper, gallium, germanium, graphite, hafnium, indium, lithium, molybdenum, niobium, nickel, PGE, phosphorous, potash, REE, rhenium, silicon, strontium, tantalum, tellurium, tin, titanium, tungsten, vanadium, zirconium, selenium and cadmium. Some minerals are rare, while a few others have wide use, especially in batteries for electric vehicles and other mobility needs.

The Centre has carried out a series of reforms by amending the MMDR Act, 1957. The changes seek larger participation of the private sector in mineral exploration and production, including lithium. The reform initiative removes lithium from the list of highly regulated atomic minerals, for which mining permissions were exclusively granted by the Centre to government entities.

The move also opens the door for private sector participation in the auction of this crucial mineral, widely utilised in production of electric vehicle batteries.

Besides, the Act allows the government to grant composite exploration licence for specific high-value minerals, including gold, silver, platinum and copper.

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Published: 15 Sep 2023, 11:14 PM IST
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