Miners will have to give tribals a share

NEW DELHI: Mining companies in tribal areas should shell out 26% of their equity while individual and other operators should share 26% of their profits with the affected people. The Union mines ministry will recommend this to the Empowered Group of Ministers on the new Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act on Wednesday.

The EGoM will meet for the last time on Wednesday to discuss the bill which the government believes can reduce the rising protest in tribal areas against mining that brings little developmental gains to the region.

Sources said the proposed bill's provisions for sharing equity and profits besides the mining units paying an environmental levy and other taxes in order to check abnormal super profits as well as run the operation sustainability remain on board despite a spirited attempt by business chamber FICCI against them.

FICCI had written to the PM against the provisions of the bill. It had claimed that sharing their profits with affected people "would be like money earned without any effort" and lead to greater inequalities and cause socio-economic problems besides making the mining industry operations unviable.

But the government, conscious of the geographical overlap of the tribal population, Left-wing extremism and the mining belt in central India, sources suggest, at the moment is sticking to its guns.

The bill also proposes to set up a regulatory authority at the Centre to monitor and implement the Act. The move to set up such an authority comes at a time when the case of illegal mining in Karnataka has become a national issue with a beleaguered BJP government in the state tossing the ball into the Union government's court. It has asked the Centre to ban iron ore exports which it turn would curb illegal mining too.

While the UPA at the moment seems firm on altering the mining regulations, it is a divided house on the issue of curbing or banning exports. The Union minister of mines B K Handique on Tuesday said a ban on the export of the ore would lead to job loss. The Union steel ministry, on the other hand, has favoured a ban on exports of iron ore fines. The EGoM meeting on Wednesday is expected to resolve this impasse as well.

Handique admitted in Lok Sabha during question hour that there were differing views but said, "My ministry has, however, kept an open mind and whatever decision is taken, we shall abide by it."