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Mines Bill may be in slow lane to House

Indira Kannan  |  Toronto 

The mining industry will have to wait till at least the monsoon session of Parliament for passage of the new Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation (MMDR) Bill. The legislation is being examined by a parliamentary standing committee.

In an interview here with Business Standard, the secretary in the ministry of mines, Vishwapati Trivedi, ruled out earlier passage of the Bill. “The Budget session starts on March 12 and I think the standing committee has not yet completed its deliberations. So, there’s no way we can get it in the Budget session,” he said.

Trivedi said the committee had been given three months, but had the freedom to ask for more time.

“If all goes well, we should be able to get the whole Act through in the next session of Parliament.”

There was, he said, no delay on the legislation; it was going through the process every Act had to undergo. The MMDR Bill seeks to bring greater transparency, better regulation and quicker approvals in the sector.

On the corporate affairs ministry’s reported opinion that the provision in the new Bill for issuing at least one non-transferable share in a mining company to each family impacted by that company’s mine is at odds with the Companies Act, which would require the shares to be transferable, Trivedi said there were good reasons to keep the share non-transferable.

It would prevent unscrupulous elements from buying those shares for a slight premium.

He said the corporate affairs ministry had raised this issue earlier, when the stakeholder discussions were held, but the Cabinet had decided to keep the shares non-transferable.

The mining secretary said the corporate ministry had suggested locking in the shares for three or four years, rather than making these non-transferable forever, but the point may not need to be resolved at all. “If the Bill goes through, notwithstanding anything in any other Act, this becomes the final decision,” he said.

The secretary said this financial year’s slowdown in the sector and the drop in its share of GDP and the Index of Industrial Production was temporary. “This has been a particularly bad year because of the Karnataka fiasco. I think the Supreme Court should, in a month’s time, be clearing the air on this. There will be business as usual after that,” Trivedi said, adding that metal prices were strong.

Trivedi led the Indian delegation to PDAC 2012, held here on March 4-7. This is the world’s leading convention for exploration and mining industries, drawing 25,000 delegates annually. Representatives from the Union and state governments, public sector units and private companies were part of what was the largest Indian delegation yet to this annual expo.

First Published: Fri, March 09 2012. 00:55 IST