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Amendment to Mineral Concession Rules may affect Goa

Panaji: The government is planning to amend the Mineral Concession Rules, 2016, with the Ministry of Mines on Tuesday inviting suggestions from stakeholders, mining companies, industry associations etc to the draft Mineral (other than atomic and hydro carbons energy) Concession Amendment Rules, 2020.

The last date for the suggestions is February 19, 2020. The amendments proposed are in rule 9 (A), rule 12 (A) and rule 18 of the Mineral Concession Rules.

The amendment proposed by the central ministry under rule 9 (A) is for leases expiring vide sub sections 5 and 6 of section 8A of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) or MMDR Act.

The amendment makes it compulsory for state governments to nominate a secretary level officer as the nodal officer who shall be authorised to collect the vesting rights – all the valid rights, approvals, clearances, licences and the like – from the previous lessee and shall suo motu issue the vesting order in favour of the new lessee along with the letter of intent.

“The vesting order so issued shall have the same terms and conditions of every right, approval, clearance, licence and the like which were vesting with the previous lessee,” says the proposed amendment. “The nodal officer will also be responsible for any statutory payments or documents to be submitted from the new lessee as well as the period for which vesting right is issued,” according to the proposed amendment.

The amendment is likely to be relevant to Goa, as sub-sections (5) and (6) of section 8A relate to “extension of tenure of mining leases up to 50 years from the date of grant of the lease, or the period of renewal already approved, or till March 31, 2020 or March 31, 2030,  as the case may be (depending on whether it is a captive lease or otherwise), whichever of the three is later, subject to the condition that all the terms and conditions of the lease have been complied with.”

The MMDR Act, 1957 provides for the tenure of the mining leases to extend beyond 25 years.

The proposed amendment to rule 12 (A) imposes additional conditions for commencement and continuation of production as per Section 4B.

The amendment to rule 18 is for timely conduct of auction as per procedure specified in the Act and Rules so that auction of an expiring mining lease is well in advance of its expiry so as to prevent disruption in production of minerals.

“Under normal circumstances, the state government shall target completion of auction process at least two years before the impending expiry of a mining lease so that there is a smooth transition from one lessee to the other. However, the lease in such cases shall be executed after the expiry of the lease period of the existing lessee,” says the proposed amendment of rule 18. 

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will hear the review petition filed by the Goa government on mining issue on April 21 along with the petition filed by Vedanta and Geetabala Parulekar mining firms.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Advocate General Devidas Pangam confirmed the development that took place in the apex court on Tuesday.

Sawant said that it is a positive development for restarting mining activities in the state.

Pangam said that during the hearing on Tuesday on other matter related to mining, the apex court mentioned about the review petition filed by the Goa government and decided to take up the matter for hearing on April 21 along with the petition filed by Vedanta and Geetabala Parulekar.

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