Covid-19: Govt panel wants auto-extension of forest clearance for mines

The recommendation came in wake of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown-related economic effects

mining
The mines will have to apply for fresh forest clearance when their lease expires | Representative Photo

Government-owned mines whose lease period have got a 20-year extension will not require a fresh clearance, reported Hindustan Times, quoting the minutes of a meeting held by the environment ministry’s forest advisory committee (FAC).

According to the minutes of the meeting, which was held on March 30 via video conferencing, the FAC has recommended that the validity of forest clearance be extended automatically for such mines. The recommendation came in wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown-related economic effects in India.

Related news: Govt amends mining law, exempts small-scale activities from green clearance

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The report said these mines won’t require a fresh clearance and thus, the impact of forest diversion will not be assessed. It said the mines will have to apply for a fresh forest clearance when their lease expires.

It said the recommendation came after the steel ministry sought a clarification whether forest clearance can be made valid for the same period as that of the mining lease period.

Lease periods of several mines, including those in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, were extended by the respective government following their expiry. The report said the steel ministry had requested the extension of forest clearance for these projects.

According to the report, FAC has observed such extension of forest clearances can be granted, based on interpretations of court orders and legal opinions. But the extension depends on whether the mines have complied with its previous conditions, the report quoted FAC saying.

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“Environment ministry in view of the recent emergency situation (lockdown due to outbreak of Covid-19 disease), may consider the approval granted under FCA-1980, to Government mines, making those co-terminus with the valid lease period,” FAC observed, according to the report.

Meanwhile, removal of sand deposits from agricultural fields after floods will also not require green clearance now, with the Centre amending the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.

In its notification, the environment ministry said extraction of ordinary clay or sand by manual mining, by the potters to prepare earthen pots, extraction of clay or sand by manual mining by earthen tile makers shall be exempted from the condition of acquiring environmental clearance.

(With inputs from agencies)

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