Mining: MoEF to push for one-time green clearance

The Ministry of Environment and Forests is giving final touches to a plan that will insist on full forest clearance for the entire mining lease area, instead of granting clearance to a smaller section of the lease area where actual mining is proposed to take place, sources told The Indian Express.

The move aimed at streamlining forest clearance procedures will allow mining agencies to break up land for additional mining in the same lease area without having to approach the MoEF again for clearance for the new mine. Delays in renewal of mining leases and fresh forest clearance for new mining in the same area are often blamed for shortage of coal and consequent power supply disruption.

As of now, a user agency with a lease of for instance 100 ha of forest land and plans to first mine across 20 ha is required to seek forest clearance only for these 20 ha. Later, as and when the user agency expands operations across the mining lease area when production dips in one mine or when it is rested for reclamation and rehabilitation, it has to seek forest clearance again for fresh mining. The ministry proposes that in the first instance itself full forest clearances for the entire mine lease (ie 100 ha) be insisted upon.

The full clearance proposal has two purposes — one to streamline forest clearance granting process for mining activity. Instead of having to seek forest clearance again and again as a mining agency ramps up production — a process that can take months — an agency will only have to apply once to the MoEF for complete forest clearance.

The second purpose is fund generation and recovering full cost of usage of forest land. The granting of clearance comes with clauses that require a user agency to cough up funds for compensatory afforestation. When a whole mining lease area will be considered for forest clearance, instead of a small chunk of land, the government will see a substantial jump in the funds.

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