India’s National Mineral Policy Requires a Radical Overhaul – by Karan Bhagat (Bloomberg News – October 9, 2017)

The Ministry of Mines has recently set up the K R Rao Committee in response to a Supreme Court directive. This was contained in a Court judgement pertaining to illegal mining in Odisha (Common Cause vs Union of India & Ors). The Committee’s professed purpose is to take a fresh look at India’s National Mineral Policy, which has not been reviewed since 2008, and come up with a fresh version by the end of 2017.

In the Odisha mining case, the Supreme Court spelled out what constitutes illegal mining and established that in such cases, the full value of minerals so extracted may be recovered from the offender.

In particular, the Court made clear that mining in breach of the terms of a lease – in excess of volume limits, outside lease areas and in the absence of necessary environmental clearances – is illegal.

While this may seem like a statement of the most obvious kind to most of us, the many state governments responsible for monitoring mining in their geographies don’t quite seem to have seen things in the same way. This has forced petitioners to get the Supreme Court to spell it out in black and white.

Why the state governments don’t appear to have come to the same conclusions themselves is anybody’s guess. After all, there is not much point of a limit or a clearance if it is not illegal to breach them. Yet myriad breaches have occurred in states such as Odisha, Karnataka, Goa, Rajasthan and Jharkhand without any prosecution or punishment forthcoming.

For the rest of this article: