National Mineral Policy 2019: a Remedy as Bad as the Disease?
The mineral sector is regulated through the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 (MMDR Act) enacted by Parliament, and the rules there under and the changes in the law (and rules) and the policy have generally been going in step. The MMDR Act was amended in 2015, primarily to make auction the sole mode of granting mineral concessions (i.e. prospecting licences and mining leases). Some consequential changes were also made in the rules: the National Mineral Policy (NMP) of 2019 is thus primarily a revision of NMP of 2008. One of the important consequences of the change in the law (and now in the policy as well) is that, despite some phrases in the policy to the contrary, the private sector no longer has an incentive to do exploration to locate minerals at their own risk and cost, since that will not enable them to claim mining rights, as these rights will be auctioned to the highest qualifying bidder (Kumar 2019). Two other major changes in NMP 2019 compared to the 2008 policy need to be noticed. One aspect is the linking of NMP 2019 with the vision of “Make in India” (GoI 2018) announced by the Prime Minister in 2014 and amended subsequently, which includes the mining sector.1 The second is the introduction of a concept of “inter-generational equity” based on aspects like available reserves/resources. In this context, the perspective of Basu (this issue) that mineral extraction needs to be accounted for as the sale of inherited wealth is an interesting view.