Small miners of minor minerals in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are facing inordinate delays in securing environment clearance from the respective State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority. The issue was raised by representatives of the two states at the quarterly meeting of the Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee on Mineral Development and Regulation held under the chairmanship of the Mines Secretary in New Delhi last month.
The SEIAAs generally receive a large number of proposals for mining of minor minerals and the time taken to examine them often lead to delays in grant of clearance.
During the CEC meeting, the officials representing Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh highlighted the problems being faced in granting permissions for mining of minor minerals. The representative from Gujarat suggested setting up multiple SEIAAs notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in the state.
It may be recalled that the Madhya Pradesh government had earlier contended before the National Green Tribunal that under the Madhya Pradesh Mines and Minerals Rules, 1956, as amended in exercise of powers under sub-section (i) to section 15 of the Mines and Minerals Development Act, 1957, the District Level Environment Committee was competent to grant environmental clearance for mining activity in areas less than 5 ha.
The NGT in its judgment dated November 28th, 2013, on the matter dismissed the Madhya Pradesh government’s plea on the ground that environmental clearance came under Central law and could only be granted by the MoEF or SEIAA depending upon the project category.
“The State is vested with no power to change the system with regard to the grant of environmental clearance under law. The consideration and grant of environmental clearance is statutorily regulated by the Notification of 2006. The State Government would not be competent to alter or completely give a go-by to the said statutory procedure and methodology and assume to itself any authority appointed by it to grant environmental clearance. The environmental clearance has to be granted by the authority specified under the Central law,” it was stated in the judgment.
Minutes of the CEC meeting reveal that the Ministry of Mines proposes to seek the views of states on the issue of appealing against the NGT judgment. In order to overcome the inordinate delays currently faced in the processing of proposals and applications for mining of minor minerals, the MoEF would be asked to explore the possibility of setting up SEIAAs at the district or zonal level.