New Delhi: Swarna Bharat Party’s president Vishal Singh has said that India’s mining policy needs a total reset.
Every mine gives jobs (including unskilled jobs) to hundreds, even thousands of people. Mines boost local service sector jobs, leading to improved nutritional outcomes for the poor within a radius of 50-100 km of a mine. Exploration and mining on a large scale can also create lakhs of downstream jobs in mineral processing and use.
India’s land mass has much in common with western Australia, which is rich in a range of minerals, the SBP’s press release explains. Unfortunately, successive governments have restricted exploration and India’s mineral wealth remains largely unexplored in the last almost 70 years of independence. The Modi government also remains oblivious to the vast potential of the mining sector.
India remains close to the bottom of the world on indicators of per capita mineral and energy consumption, which are key indicators of prosperity. India also has no strategic mineral policy, forcing us to import even basic minerals like coal and iron ore, of which India has some of the largest known reserves, SBP complains.
Singh said that mineral exploration is an extremely high-risk venture that needs incentives, not the kind of disincentives we have imposed on the industry. Royalties should be set at a level that allows profitability and viability, Singh insists. Mineral exploration licences should be given on a first-come-first-served basis, except in the case of mineral deposits that are fully mapped; in such cases auctions can be considered. Of course, all licences should comply with requirements for environmental protection and consultation with the community, or so goes the SBP’s policy advocacy for the mining sector.
The most urgent policy changes needed, according to the SBP, are to make exploration and mining licences fully transferable in the open market and to require all mineral exploration companies to be listed on the BSE. The stock market will get rid of any unethical companies. In addition, government should commission and publish large-scale mapping of mineral resources to reduce uncertainty for potential investors and motivate investment.
Unfortunately, we have such restrictive policies that many Indians and international junior exploration companies are investing in mineral exploration in Africa and South America, and in mining in Australia, but not in India. This is an absurd situation. The government must urgently liberate the industry from government created shackles.
Singh said that, in summary, India needs a modern and investor-friendly Mineral Act, a sensible tax structure for mining and a good regulatory regime that ensures environmental protection even as jobs and growth are given a huge boost. He committed that the SBP would liberate the mining sector to enable India to become a “Sone Ki Chidiya” (golden bird, an analogy used to describe the glory of ancient India) once again.