Top India Court Orders Policy Changes to Stop 'Rapacious' Mining

  • Mineral policy needs to be revised to halt illegal activity
  • Nation trying to boost investment and increase local output

India’s top court has directed the government to revise the National Mineral Policy by December at the latest to more effectively regulate the mining industry and stop illegal activity.

A two-judge Supreme Court panel, led by M.B. Lokur, said the policy effective from 2008 “seems to be only on paper and is not being enforced perhaps due to the involvement of very powerful vested interests or a failure of nerve.”

India is desperate to develop its own mineral deposits and reduce dependence on imports at a time when Asia’s third-biggest economy needs increasing supplies of iron ore and coal. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ambitious plans to triple steel capacity by 2030 and expand infrastructure. The nation wants to spur investment by tackling illegal miners and making it easier to get approval for exploration leases.

The national mineral policy “is almost a decade old and a variety of changes have taken place since then,” the court said, including “the advent of rapacious mining in several parts of the country.”

“At present, keeping in mind the indiscriminate mining operations in Odisha, it does appear that there is no effective check on mining operations, nor is there any effective mining policy,” the court said.

India in 2015 embraced competitive auctions as the best long-term approach to resource allocation after bruising corruption scandals over discretionary or free allotments. Along with the auctioning of exploration and mining rights, the cabinet last year also approved a national mineral exploration policy.

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