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Snapshot: India’s mining activities are subject to environmental regulations

Snapshot: India’s mining activities are subject to environmental regulations

Snapshot: environmental regulations for mining activities in India

Environment

Principal applicable environmental laws

What are the main environmental laws that apply to the mining industry? What are the main regulatory bodies that enforce those laws?

The following are the main environmental laws that apply to the mining industry:

  • Environment Protection Act 1986 (EPA);
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act 1980
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974.
  • 1981 Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

 

Further, the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 (MMDRA) gives the central government the power to set rules for the conservation and sustainable use of minerals and the protection and control of pollution from prospecting and mining operations. The Mineral Conservation and Development Rules 2017, (MCDR), regulate environmental aspects of mining and ensure sustainable mining.

The Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, (MoEF), and the Central and State Pollution Control Board are the principal regulators. In particular, the Indian Bureau of Mines as well as the state government regulate mining.

Permitting and environmental review

What is the process for mining projects? How long does it usually take to obtain the necessary permits

The MoEF’s 2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), Notification, was notified under the EPA provisions. It regulates the granting of environment clearances. An EIA study is used to assess the environmental impact of a mining project. An EIA study is conducted to determine the environmental impact of the proposed mining project.

In the case of mining projects that are on forest land the central government may also stipulate mitigation measures such as the creation or maintenance of compensatory forest afforestation.

The EIA process for mining can take up to a year. This is because the EIA study must be completed over three seasons, with public consultations and then a review by an appraisal committee. If the mining is on forest land, then the clearance to divert that forest land must also be obtained. Previously, the process of obtaining environmental clearance took at least two years. However, the current policy to encourage industry development has resulted in clearances being granted in less time. The government launched Pro-Active & Responsive Facilitation by Interactive, Virtuous, and Environmental Single-window hub (PARIVESH) as an integrated environmental management system. This allows project developers to apply for environmental clearances.

The Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act 2121 will ensure that the environment and forest clearances as well other statutory clearances will remain valid even after termination or expiry of the previous lease. These clearances will be transferred to and vest in the new lessee subject to the applicable law. In July 2021, a similar amendment was made to the EIA Notification 2006. This provides that the prior environmental clearance granted to the former lessee will be considered to have been transferred to successful bidder at the beginning of the new lease for its remaining validity period (calculated starting from the date said clearance was granted). The successful bidder must register with the PARIVESH portal and agree to follow the conditions under which the environmental clearance was granted to the previous lessee.

Sustainability

Are there any government agencies or other institutions that offer incentives or publish guidelines on environmental and social governance (ESG), for green projects?

The National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct have been issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. They are based on the principle that businesses should work to protect and restore the environment. There are many mechanisms that can be used to promote environmentally sustainable mining in India. These include a mandatory EIA and provisions for forest clearing. Additionally, the MMDRA (and associated rules) prescribe specific mining standards that mining companies must follow in order to carry out scientific and environmentally friendly mining. The Indian Bureau of Mines launched a star rating system, which gives a star rating to mining firms for their efforts and initiatives in implementing the sustainable mining development framework.

Closure and remediation

What is the process of closing a mining project and restoring it? What financial guarantees, such as performance bonds and guarantees, are required?

See Also

A mining rights holder must prepare two types of mine closure plans: a permanent mine closure plan and an interim mine closure plan. The progressive closure plan is submitted along with the mine plan. The final closure plans are submitted for approval two year prior to the proposed closure. The rights holder must make sure that the mine closure plan is followed, including reclamation works and rehabilitation works. The government authority must verify that all protective measures in accordance to the final mine closure plan were carried out.

A bank guarantee is required for concessions that are not granted through auction. This will ensure that the mine closure plan is implemented properly. In the event of failure, the state government may take the bank guarantee. If the mine closure plan is not followed, concessions granted through auction can be cancelled and the performance guarantee can be realized according to the terms of the mine development agreement and production agreement.

Restrictions on the building of waste dams or tailings

What are the restrictions regarding building waste dams or tailings pools?

The MCDR requires rights holders to ensure that:

  • Separate dumps are set up for waste rock, overburden, tailings, and slimes.
  • The waste dams are properly secured to stop flooding and allow material to escape in large quantities that could cause environmental degradation.
  • To ensure minimal leaching, the site for waste dams and tailings or slimes should be as far as possible on impervious soil.
  • The waste dumps should be terraced and stabilized by vegetation or other means.

 

The Indian Bureau of Mines inspects all mines according to the following criteria.

  • All mechanised mines
  • All underground mines
  • Other A-category Mines
  • All mines whose leases expire in the next two years

 

For the purpose of prospecting and mining, there are no requirements for individuals responsible for dam waste management. However, experienced mining engineers and geologists must be employed by mining companies. There are no mandatory emergency drills or alarm systems that must be used with local communities. The government is responsible for the rescue of all people in the event of a dam breaking. However, India’s doctrine of absolute liability would make the mining companies liable for any damage to property or loss of life.

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