Ministry of the Environment eases expansion standards for some mines | Latest India News


The Union Environment Ministry has relaxed environmental standards for the expansion of some iron, manganese, bauxite and limestone mines. According to a memorandum (MO) from the office released on October 20, extending mine capacity up to 20% of these four 5-star minerals can only be allowed on the basis of public consultation.

The OM said the Ministry of Mines and other stakeholders have sent representations to the Ministry of the Environment to simplify the procedure for issuing an environmental permit for these minerals. The request was sent to the joint expert committee (coal and non-coal sector) of the Ministry of the Environment. The panel decided that mines rated 5 stars, which had obtained environmental clearance on the basis of a public hearing, could increase their capacity by up to 20%. They can do this after conducting a public consultation.

The OM posted on the Environment Ministry’s Parivesh website said the public consultation will be conducted by obtaining written responses from local people and stakeholders. According to the 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, public consultation refers to the process by which the concerns of affected local people and others, who have a plausible interest in the environmental impacts of the project, are processed. It has two components: a public hearing and obtaining written responses to the project. OM said the capacity expansion should not involve an increase in the area of ​​the mining lease that was previously authorized.

The mining company or the project promoter must prepare an environmental management plan and the environmental parameters must comply with the standards.

The star rating process was initiated by the Ministry of Mines in 2016. The model must be filed by the mining lease holder who is assessed by the Indian Bureau of Mines. Scoring is based on managing impact by performing scientific and efficient mining, addressing social impacts of resettlement and rehabilitation requirements for resumption of mining activities, local community commitments and programs for welfare, adoption of international standards, etc.

“The decision is discretionary, has no basis in law and runs counter to the principles of natural justice. At the most basic level, the EIA notification does not provide for exemptions based on standards such as “five-star rating”, as noted in a memorandum from the office. The law embraces the need for a free, fair and transparent public hearing ensuring maximum participation. Limiting public consultation to only written responses is discriminatory and may fail if it is subject to constitutional scrutiny, ”said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Center for Policy Research.

“But it is equally important to recognize that such an approach to public hearings falls short of the inclusive and democratic governance that has been provided by the central government. The principles of natural justice require that the government hear from all parties before making decisions, while this decision was made only at the request of applicants for environmental authorizations.


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