MAC: Mines and Communities

India's government about to make new attack on India's poor

Published by MAC on 2015-04-10
Source: Statment. Outlook,

New Bill threatens unprecedented minerals' siphoning-off to the rich

The massive threats to the land rights of India's forest-dependent communities (see: Indian government's new assault on land rights legislation) is now being followed by concerted attempts to change the country's minerals legislation, to suit the interests of companies and various political lobbyists.

First there was the so-called "Coalgate" affair, when coal leases corruptly passed into the hands of major corporations without any public auctioning.

Although this practice has now largely been curbed, India's new Mines and Minerals Bill contains exemptions for other minerals that could result in further revenue losses of tens of hundreds of crores of rupees* - thus making the coal scandal pale in comparison.

Ravi Rebbapragada of Mines, Minerals and People comments:

The last five years have seen various attempts by the National Governmen's in India, headed by UPA till 2014 and now the NDA since last year, to make changes to the mines and minerals ( development & regulation) act of 1957 for so called effective utilization of the mineral resources and the income from them.

At the same time, the national body for auditing has come up with various reports of the loss of revenue due to opaque and arbitrary methods of the government and in the case of coal the government had lost Rs 1.86 lakh crore by giving out more than 200 coal mines without auctions .

In 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled all the coal allocations. Over the last month, the competitive bidding of just 31 coal mines has fetched more than Rs 2 lakh crore as auction proceeds and future royalties.

But while the government has introduced auctions for coal, the system of mining grants for other minerals ‒ iron ore, bauxite, gold , diamond, manganese, copper ‒ remains opaque.

In recent years, there has been a consensus that mines should be given competitive bids .

 *1 crore rupees = aproximately US$157,000,000

AARM Requests President Not to Give Assent to Mines Bill


7 April 2015

New Delhi - CPI(M)-backed tribal organisations today termed as "anti-constitutional" the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Amendment Bill, 2015 and urged President Pranab Mukherjee not to give his assent to the legislation saying it will hit tribals and lead to their further displacement.

A delegation of Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM), led by former Rajya Sabha MP of CPI(M) Brinda Karat, today met Mukherjee and requested him not to approve the Bill, which has been cleared by both the Houses of Parliament.

"We requested the President to not give his assent to the Bill which is set to affect tribals badly," Karat told reporters after the meeting.

She alleged that the Bill was cleared violating the spirit of constitutional provisions and legal framework.

"The select Committee of Rajya Sabha (which examined the Bill) did not consult representatives of tribals from the mineral rich districts which are directly affected by the amendments," Karat said, adding procedure followed by Centre in getting the Bill cleared also violated the federal structure as state governments were not consulted over the issue.

The members of delegation also brought to the notice of the President that Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) in Fifth Schedule States, which are mandated to be consulted on all major issues affecting tribal communities, too were not taken into confidence before the Bill was framed.

"The procedure was highly violative of Constitutional protection cover for tribal community," Karat said, adding the President was left "shocked" to know the issues raised during the meeting.

She further said the Mines and Minerals Bill also ignored provisions made in the Forest Rights Act, PESA Act and Wild Life Protection Act which mandate process for recognition of rights before any relocation, compensation packages for tribals with consent, protection of traditional rights amongst others.

The Bill concerned along with Land Acquisition Ordinance is set to give "double blow" to adivasis (tribals) leading to rise in their displacement, Karat claimed.

"According to the high-level committee report on tribal issues, tribals constitute 8.7 per cent of the country's population. But they form 40 per cent of all those displaced by government's development projects. If the Mines and Mineral Bill is approved, it will cause further displacement of tribals. The Land Acquisition Ordinance will only mean double blow to adivasis and farmers," she added.

Referring to the Ordinance, Karat attacked the NDA government saying they keeps talking about "ease of doing business ", but there is no talk about "ease of doing farming".

Besides Karat, CPI (M) Lok Sabha MP Jitendra Choudhury, secretary of AARM's West Bengal unit Pulin Baske and others were also present during the meeting.

The delegation also said to have drawn the President's attention towards Fifth Schedule areas where tribals are prohibited from transferring, selling or leasing tribal land to non-tribals. However, the state claiming ownership of all minerals takes over the land and hands it over to private parties.

"This raises a legal and constitutional issue. The Samatha judgement of Supreme Court in 1997 reiterated this aspect of prohibition of transfer of tribal land and held it is illegal. It emphasised the need for consultation with tribal communities as well as ensuring a clear stake for tribals because they have the surface rights of the land and also because forest areas in which minerals are to be found are a direct source of livelihood," Karat said.

Besides the legal issues, the delegation also brought the President's attention towards UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 which makes mandatory free , prior and informed consent" of communities set to be affected and Article 32 of the said declaration is specific to mining of minerals. In February 2008, the UN Development Group released "Guidelines on Indigenous Peoples Issues".

"None of these aspects have been considered," she added.

Coalgate seemed huge but it might pale in comparison to the impending Minegate

The Mines and Minerals Bill contains exemptions that could result in revenue losses of tens of hundreds of crores of rupees.

Supriya Sharma

19 March 2015

If the failure of successive governments to auction coal mines nearly caused the national exchequer losses of Rs 1.86 lakh crore, the amendments introduced by the National Democratic Alliance government in India's mining law could result in losses several times greater.

The Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Amendment Bill 2015 has been approved by the Lok Sabha, and is currently under consideration in the Rajya Sabha.

As Scroll reported last week, the Bill claims to introduce auctions for minerals other than coal, but in reality it exempts a large number of mineral deposits from auctions through caveats.

If the law is passed in its current form, Scroll's calculations show that for just one mineral (iron ore) in just one state (Chhattisgarh), the value of exempted deposits could amount to at least 1.71 lakh crore rupees and the losses to the national exchequer could come to at least 1.22 lakh crore rupees (method of calculation explained below).

Extrapolating from this, it seems plausible that losses on account of the exempted deposits of all minerals ‒ iron ore, bauxite, gold, diamond, manganese, copper ‒ across all the states could run into possibly tens of lakhs of crores.


So far, mineral leases have been granted in India on the basis of government discretion. Not only has this method of granting mining rights been dogged by arbitrariness and non-transparency, it has also resulted in a staggering loss of revenue .

This became starkly apparent in 2012, when the national auditor estimated that the government had lost Rs 1.86 lakh crore by giving out more than 200 coal mines without auctions . The United Progressive Alliance government dismissed the figure as "notional loss". But three years later, it has proved to be an underestimate. In 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled all the coal allocations. Over the last month, the competitive bidding of just 31 coal mines has fetched more than Rs 2 lakh crore as auction proceeds and future royalties.

But while the government has introduced auctions for coal, the system of mining grants for other minerals ‒ iron ore, bauxite, gold, diamond, manganese, copper ‒ remains opaque. In recent years, there has been a consensus that mines should be given competitive bids. The process is fair and transparent. Market forces determine the price of minerals, and the government fetches revenues .

It was this logic that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National democratic alliance government cited while promulgating an ordinance in January to change the law that governs minerals other than coal. In a press release, it said the aim of the ordinance was to bring "greater transparency and removing of discretion". The ordinance has now been presented as the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Amendment Bill 2015 for the approval of Parliament.

Changes and caveats

In the existing system, mining rights in India are granted in a step-by-step process. The state governments issue prospecting licences to companies interested in exploring mineral deposits . After the company has arrived at an estimate of the mineable reserves, it applies for a mining lease. The state government recommends the company to the Centre, which must approve the mining grant . Once the company gets environmental and forest clearances, the state executes the mining lease.

The new Bill seeks to change this discretionary process. Section 11 (5) of the Bill states that mines shall be given out through competitive bids. To pave way for auctions , Section 10 A (1) cancels all pending applications for mining grants . But sub section (2) introduces caveats, putting outside the purview of auctions all mines for which:

The case of Chhattisgarh

Taking into account the exemptions under the bill, examined the status of iron ore deposits in Chhattisgarh. Prospecting licences have already been issued for more than 100 iron ore mines with 572 million tonnes of reserves.

In terms of grade, the bulk of iron ore in the state ranges from 60%-68% ferrous content, according to Chhattisgarh Mineral Resources Department.

On March 18, 2015, the market price of iron ore with 60% ferrous content came to Rs 3,000-Rs 3,500. At higher grades, the price went upto Rs 6,600-Rs 6,800.

For the purpose of calculation , Scroll chose the lowest price : Rs 3,000.

At this price, the value of 570 million tonnes of Chhattisgarh's iron ore, which is being kept outside the purview of auctions by Modi government's mines bill, comes to Rs 1,716,000 crore.

For calculation of losses, Scroll took the method adopted by the national auditor in its 2012 coal report. The largest iron ore mining company in the India, the government owned National Mineral Development Corporation, made Rs 7773 crore as profits in 2013-14. With an annual production of 30 million tonnes, NMDC's profit per tonne comes to Rs 2591, which for 572 million tonnes amounts to Rs 1.48 lakh crore. taking profits after tax of Rs 6420 crore, the figure comes to Rs 1.22 lakh crore.

This is the figure for just one mineral in just one state.

The national picture

The situation is likely to be worse in states like Odisha where several mining leases have lapsed and the state wanted to put them up for auctions . But, in addition to the exemptions under Section 10 of the bill, Section 8 of the bill extends the duration of mining leases due for renewal by 5-15 years. The bill also extends the duration of existing mining leases from 30 to 50 years, ensuring that companies holding the leases will not be threatened by auctions anytime soon. The government has said that the extensions are needed to ensure that the transition to auctions is smooth and does not affect mining output.

But in a submission to the select committee of the Rajya Sabha that examined the bill, the non-profit Goa Foundation said this was "tantamount to transferring the wealth of the States, and therefore of the people, to miners. This violates the constitution and is in violation of the Supreme Court’s findings in coal allotment and spectrum judgments. These sub-sections must be deleted as they seek to transfer publicly owned resources to parties without payment, against the public interest."

The select committee was formed on the demand of the opposition in Rajya Sabha. But it was given just one week to examine the bill. "They are in a hurry," said Ravi Rebbapragada of Mines, Minerals and People, a mining watchdog. "After all, the mining industry has given donations to political parties. This is payback time."

Ignoring the exemptions

On Wednesday, the select committee submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha. The report deliberates at length on other aspects of the bill, but makes just a cursory reference to the exemptions. It says, "The rights of those holding prospecting licences and reconnaissance permits have been exempted from the amendment ordinance because they have made investments."

Barring diamonds, for bulk minerals like iron ore, companies make limited investments at the stage of prospecting licences, given that it is only the first step towards getting mining rights. Take the case of Tata Steel in Chhattisgarh. In 2007, the company was granted a prospecting licence for exploring 2,500 hectares of land which holds an estimated 138 million tonnes of iron ore. According to an affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court in 2009, which was not updated subsequently, the company had made an investment of Rs 113 crore in both the mine and the steel plant linked to it. To put this in perspective: The value of the deposit at the lowest current price is Rs 41,400 crore.

The attempts to exempt such mines from future auctions is "nothing short of a scam", said Sudiep Shrivastava, a lawyer and activist from Chhattisgarh. "In the past, this happened through executive decisions which could be challenged in court and invite criminal charges. But this time, it's happening in a novel way, where the government is getting legislative approval and making itself immune from courts and criminality."

Attempts to speak with the mining minister Narendra Singh Tomar were unsuccessful. Calls and messages to two members of the select committee went unanswered.

(This article has been updated to reflect the methodology of the calculation in greater detail.)

We welcome your comments at letters[at]

An Open Letter to All State Governments, State Forest and Environment Departments and State Pollution Control Boards to reject Environmental Reforms Proposed by Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on the basis of recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee

6 April 2015

* Request that you reject regressive Environmental Reforms promoted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change based on recommendations of the TSR Subramanian Committee Report Respected Chief Ministers, Environment Ministers, Environment Secretaries and Chairpersons and Member Secretaries of Pollution Control Boards in various States of India:

We write seeking your immediate attention to certain proposals of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change to reform environmental decision making in India. We consider these “reforms” to be highly regressive and would cause irreversible damage to environment and human rights.

As you are aware the Environment Ministry accepted the recommendations of the highly controversial “Report of High Level Committee to review Acts administered by Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change” (also known as the T S R Subramanian Committee report). The Committee's recommendations are oriented towards promoting unprecedented access to land, water and other natural resources to large corporate bodies and to pave the way for mega infrastructure, industrial and urban projects. Keen on ensuring that all State Governments support the Ministry's “reforms” agenda, the Union Environment Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar has called for a conclave of State Environment Ministers, Environment Secretaries and Chairpersons of Pollution Control Boards in Delhi, 6-8 April, 2015, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi.

The Subramanian Committee was one of the first major policy initiatives of the National Democratic Alliance government headed by Prime Minister Modi. The purpose of the Committee was to draft “specific amendments needed in each of these Acts so as to bring them in line with current requirements to meet objectives”. Neither the Government nor the Committee cared to explain or clarify what this phrase meant. While preparing its report, the Committee held secretive consultations with corporate bodies and lobby groups, some state governments (not all), and held public consultations in a few cities which can best be described as tokenistic. The Committee submitted its report to the Prime Minister on 27th November 2014, barely 3 months after it had been constituted.

The Committee proposes sweeping changes to environmental, forest and biodiversity protection laws of India, proposes new laws to manage old laws, and promotes the establishment of a slew of new bureaucracies and the dismantling of decades-old regulatory institutions such as the Pollution Control Boards. The Committee shockingly proposes that industries must be allowed to self-regulate on a self-certification model based on “utmost good faith”, completely ignoring the disastrous experience India has had, most painfully being experienced by the people of Bhopal. The Subramanian Committee recommendations are not supported by any empirical evidence and appear to have been largely an outcome of opinions held by the Committee members and those they met with. And in stark contrast with well established norms for functioning of such High Level Committees, the Subramanian Committee has, admittedly, not kept any documentation of its process, who it met with, or even minuted its proceedings and the costs incurred.

Implications of the Subramanian Committee Report:

If the Subramanian Committee recommendations are accepted by the Centre and the States, prevailing environmental decision making norms and regulations will be grossly diluted, made extremely undemocratic, in-transparent and highly centralised. The very pillars on which India's environmental jurisprudence stands today will be shaken as is evident from Section 3 of the new Environmental Laws Management Act proposed which seeks to make redundant various progressive judgments of the Supreme Court, High Court and National Green Tribunal advancing environmental and social justice.

The Committee also proposes that critical safeguards now available to natural resource dependent and forest dwelling communities and other vulnerable project impacted communities, such as the statutory requirement to involve them and seek their consent in environmental decision making and diversion of forest land, would be sidestepped so that investors could secure “speedy” environmental and forest clearances. In effect, the Committee's focus has been to make environmental and social justice considerations subsidiary to business and investment priorities.

Such “reforms” would result in colossal and irreplaceable loss of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge, destruction of sensitive ecosystems (with an emphasis on protecting only forests with over 70% canopy cover), increase the rate of species extinction, and threaten, disrupt, dislocate and displace pastoral, farming, coastal and other natural resource dependent communities. Floodgates for reckless exploitation of natural resources would be opened as clearances to projects would be accorded largely based on investment criteria. Extensive violation of human rights are thus likely to become the norm.

Centre-State relationships will also be adversely affected as the Union Environment Minister has accepted the Subramanian Committee proposals to establish National and State Environmental Management Agencies the configuration and management of which will be decided by the Centre. The critical role of Local Governments in environmental management and conservation has been comprehensively ignored, disregarding Constitutional mandates (in particular Articles 243 ZD, ZE and the 11th and 12th Schedules of the Constitution) which require the tier of governance closest to the people must be integrally involved in decisions about environment and natural resources.

While reforms are indeed required for environmental decision making in India, the objective has to be to safeguard public interest and the quality of our environment, and not, as is now proposed, to promote economic growth causing irreversible damage to ecological security of present and future generations. In the forthcoming Conclave, we urge you to impress upon the Government of India that environmental reforms must be an outcome of deeply democratic nation-wide debates and discussions, in which all agencies of Local, State and Central governments can meaningfully participate, and where the voices of peoples from all over the country, especially those who live in environmentally sensitive and stressful areas, and from all sectors, are heard, documented and rationally considered.

With that in mind, we urge you to reject the “reforms” proposed by the Union Government on the basis of the recommendations of the Subramanian Committee.

More detailed reasons why your Government must reject these reform proposals are provided in a comprehensive critique of the Subramanian Committee report by ESG, entitled “A Non-trivial Threat to India's Ecological and Economic Security” accessible at:, and an article entitled “A hasty, half-baked report on environment” by former Union Water Resources Secretary Ramaswamy Iyer, accessible at:

Thank you for your cooperation and support.

Sl No.






Leo F. Saldanha


Environment Support Group



Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Edu)/Trustee

Environment Support Group



Jai Prakash Alva

Board Member

Board Member

Karnataka State Pollution Control Board

Karnataka, India


Dr Claude Alvares


The Goa Foundation


Prof J G Krishnayya


Dire, Systems Research Institute

Pune, India


Wilfred D’costa


Indian Social Action Forum - INSAF

New Delhi, India


Don Anton

Professor of International Law & Adjunct Professor of Law


Griffith Law School, Griffith University & The Australian National University College of Law

Queensland, Australia


Juli Cariappa


Krishi Pandit

Mysore, India


Soumya Dutta


Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha /
Beyond Copenhagen collective / 
India Climate Justice


Laishram Malem Mangal

Assistant Professor

Royal Academy of Law

Manipur, India


M K Mathew


Laboratory of Membrane Biophysics
National Centre for Biological Sciences, TIFR

Bangalore, India


Aruna Chandrasekhar

Researcher, Business and Human Rights

Amnesty International India. 


Bangalore/Mumbai, India


Rebecca Kurian

Retired teacher


Bangalore, India


Jayalakshmi K





Biswajit K. Bora


?University of New Delhi

New Delhi, India


Dr Santanu Ghosh MD

Assistant Professor,
Dept of Community Medicine

Bankura Sammilani Medical College

West Bengal


Neela Jayaraman

Master of Social Work Candidate 2016

Boston College


Nitin Gujaran


Massachusetts, USA


Madhusree Mukerjee


Frankfurt, Germany


Dr Rukmini Rao

Executive Director

Gramya Resource Centre for Women

Secunderabad, India


N. Jayaram

Independent Journalist and Translator


Bangalore, India


Xavier Dias


Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR
(Mines minerals & RIGHTS)

Mumbai, India


Nityanand Jayaraman

Writer and social activist


Chennai, India


Syed Tanveeruddin

Green/Environmental, RTI, Human Rights and Social Activist


Mysore, India


Vinay K Sreenivasa


Alternative Law Forum

Bangalore, India


Dhritiman Chaterji


Chennai, India


Ritu Khanna

Freelance translator


NewDelhi, India


Dr Adithya Pradyumna


MBBS, MPH (London), PGDip (Environment)

Research and Training Assistant

Society for Community Health Awareness Research and Action (SOCHARA)

Bangalore, India


Dr. Prashanth N S


BR Hills, India


Vivek Cariappa


Krishi Pandit

Mysore, India


Pradeep Esteves


Context India


Bangalore, India


Simpreet Singh



Right to the City Campaign-India

Mumbai, India





Bangalore, India


Koodali Thazhathveetil Jaidip

Shipping professional


Bangalore, India





Bangalore, India


Dr. Debal Deb



Kolkata, India





Bangalore, India


Feroza Saran


Pune Tree Watch


Arnab Sen



New Delhi/Kolkata, India


Vijay Pratap


South Asian Dialogues on Ecological Democracy




Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation

Erode, India


R. Ashok Kumar


Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal

Mumbai, India


Ramit Basu

Independent Development Consultant




Bangalore, India


L.Mohana Rengan



Tumkur, India


Santosh Shintre


Pune, India


Dhyan Appachu


Private Individual

Bangalore, India


Lingaraj Dinni

Resident association Jt secretary


Bangalore, India


Col S Thomas


Bangalore, India


Madhusudan. S


Bangalore, India


Siddhartha P Sarma


Bangalore, India


Ajoy Chawla



Bangalore, India


P R Ramesh

Association for Democratic Reforms


Bangalore, India


T. V. Jagadisan


Raghuram RP


Ramdas Rao


Ranitendranath Tagore


Joseph Mattam


Ashok Rao


Asha Shivaram




Sunder Muthanna


Advertising Professional



K. S. Parthasarathy


Dr.  P. B. M.  Basaiawmoit


North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF)




Kumaran A

Microsoft Research Lab




Dominique Garrel




 Coal auction: Govt cancels 4 blocks amid speculation of cartelisation; Jindal Steel emerges biggest lose


21 March 2015

New Delhi - Jindal Steel and Power, controlled by former lawmaker Naveen Jindal and one of the biggest beneficiaries of the previous method of coal block allocation that the Supreme Court ruled illegal, has now become the biggest loser with three of its bids rejected.

The government has cancelled bids of Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL) and BALCO for four coal blocks amid speculation of cartelisation and said it will take a final decision on these mines after deliberations.

“Department (Coal ministry) will take the final decision on the rejected bids, it will deliberate and then decide,” Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said today.

When asked whether these blocks will be re-auctioned or allotted to Coal India, Goyal said the department will take a call on it. He was speaking on the sidelines of an event of Indian Chambers of Commerce.

The Coal Ministry, had late last night, rejected the bids of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Balco for four blocks amid reports of speculation of cartelisation during the recent coal block auction.

The government was re-examining the bids for nine coal blocks, including those where Jindal Steel & Power (JSPL) and Balco emerged top bidders in the recently held auction.

“Bids for Gare Palma IV/1, IV/2, IV/3 and Tara coal blocks not accepted,” Coal Secretary Anil Swarup had tweeted early on Saturday.

Government takes decision on bids for 9 coal blocks after examination. Bids for 5 blocks accepted.

Jindal Power had emerged as successful bidder for Gare IV/2, Gare Palma IV/3 and Tara coal blocks, while Bharat Aluminium Company (Balco) had successfully bid for Gare Palma IV/1 coal block.

However, bids for five other blocks have been accepted, Swarup said.

There had been reports that some bidders could have indulged in cartelisation to keep the prices low for the concerned mines.

“In the schedule II, we were looking at four mines and in schedule III we are looking at five mines … Prima facie we found that it requires a re-examination, so it has been re-examined that is about all,” Swarup had earlier said.

The bids that were re-examined also included Marki Mangli III block, which was bagged by BS Ispat.

While insisting that the government “has not looked at any such thing as cartelisation or anything of such sort”, the secretary had said: “I have used the word ‘outliers’. There is a pattern and if somebody falls outside that pattern that needs a examination.

“Whether it is a cartelisation or not it not something which I can say as of now. We are certainly not examining these aspects. We are examining if there is an outlier, the reason for it, and then we will take a call”, he had said.

So far, a total of 33 coal blocks have been auctioned in two tranches. While in the first lot 19 coal mines were auctioned, in the second lot 14 coal blocks went under the hammer.

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