[Answered] Analyze the changes proposed in the Mines and Minerals Bill 2023. How might these changes affect India’s mining industry and its ability to secure critical minerals?

Introduction: Give context of the Bill mentioned.

Body: Mention some of the changes proposed in the bill which affect mining industry

Conclusion: Way forward

Recently, Parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023 which aims to enhance the role of private sector investment in the exploration of critical and deep-seated minerals in the country.

Some of the changes proposed in the bill which affect mining industry:

  • Greater role of the private sector: The bill seeks to allow the private sector to mine six out of 12 atomic minerals, including lithium, beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum, and zirconium. exploration and mining of these six minerals, previously classified as atomic minerals, were restricted to government-owned entities.
  • Less dependency on China: Due to the scarcity of these rare & critical minerals or the concentration of their extraction or processing in a few places, there is an increased reliance on imports, which exposes supply chains to the risk and can even cause supply disruptions. For instance, 70% of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is majority-owned by China. China is the nation with the biggest known reserves of rare earth elements, followed by Vietnam, Brazil, and Russia.
  • Economic development and national security: These minerals are crucial to a country’s manufacturing, infrastructure, and advancement. For eg, lithium is used for manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage devices. These minerals are also necessary for the production of semiconductors used in smart devices, aerospace and defence technology, and telecommunications.
  • Capacity building of private players: By utilizing the private sector’s potential for exploration, a new bill aims to bring India’s exploration methods up to level with those of wealthy nations. The use of techniques like aerial surveys, geological mapping, and geochemical analyses is a highly specialized, time-intensive, and monetarily risky operation that requires the assistance of the private sector.
  • Incentives for private players: The bill allows pitting, trenching, drilling, and sub-surface excavation as part of reconnaissance, which included mapping and surveys that were earlier prohibited.
  • Power of State Government: The State government will award the exploration license (EL), which has a five-year initial term and a two-year extension option. The bill also grants the central government the exclusive right to put up for auction mining leases and composite licenses for a few key minerals.

Conclusion:

Notably, it is believed that India has only explored 10% of its geological potential, less than 2% of which is mined, while the nation spends less than 1% of the worldwide budget on mineral exploration. The enhanced role of private sector participation will mark significant changes in mineral discoveries and mineral exploration projects.

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