By Fakir Balaji
Bengaluru, Sep 12 (IANS) Amid gloom over economic slowdown, the mining industry has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in spurring growth and creating jobs in one of the core sectors, an industry apex body official said on Thursday.
“With government support and much-needed reforms, the mining sector has the potential to create 50 lakh direct jobs and 5 crore indirect jobs if the country’s rich mineral resources are sensibly explored and produced for domestic consumption and import substitution, saving precious foreign exchange,” Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (Fimi) Secretary-General R.K. Sharma told IANS here.
In a letter to Modi recently, Sharma had said that for every 1 per cent increase in economic growth, the mining sector can generate 13 times more employment than agriculture and 6 times more than the manufacturing sector owing to its large ecosystem spanning linkages and supply chains.
“Though the mining sector is also passing through a difficult phase like the other sectors of the economy due to sluggish growth and missed opportunities, it has the potential to generate lakhs of jobs if the private sector is allowed to harness the rich mineral resources by fast-tracking the plethora of clearances, permits and incentives that are given to sunrise sectors like electric vehicles, renewable energy and startups, to name a few,” Sharma said on the margins of a mining summit here.
To achieve the government’s ambitious target of $5 trillion economy by 2024, with over 8 per cent GDP growth rate per annum, all the core sectors, including mining, have to increase their contribution consistently over the next five years.
“While the GDP grew to 7 per cent in 2017-18 from 5 per cent in 2012-13, the mineral sector’s growth declined to 1.53 per cent from 1.93 per cent in the same period for various reasons, including the failure of regulatory mechanism, lack of oversight at the ground level, judicial intervention and closure of mines,” said the letter, a copy of which has been shared with IANS.
Sharma said pro-active measures by the Central and state governments for ease of doing business, speedy clearances, tax rationalisation and efficient logistics would enable the private firms, including global players, to invest in the sector for prospecting, exploration, reconnaissance, mining and processing the minerals or metals for use by the end-users.
In spite of changes over the years in laws, regulations and policies to unlock the country’s abundant mineral wealth, the industry has been facing challenges due to lack of their implementation by the Centre and the states at various levels.
Being a part of the Gondwana land geologically, India is resource-rich in minerals like gold, silver, platinum and diamond, besides base metals like aluminum, copper, lead, nickel, iron and zinc.
“Instead of exploring and extracting the mineral wealth for self-reliance in the long-term, we are heavily dependent on importing seven times more than the value of their domestic production,” noted Sharma.
Though India is among the few countries blessed with abundant mineral resources, the sector’s contribution to the GDP was 1.53 per cent in fiscal 2017-18 in contrast to 7 per cent in Australia and 7.5 per cent in South Africa.
As mineral exploration is capital intensive and risky, private firms dubbed as junior exploration companies with domain expertise are engaged in locating, identifying and estimating the reserves for prospective mining and processing by the miners on lease.
During the NDA-1 government, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, was amended in January 2015 to step-up exploration and tapping the minerals under the supervision of the National Mineral Exploration Trust, with non-exclusive reconnaissance permit (NERP) rules.
“With state-run entities like Geological Survey of India, Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd and Department of Mines and Geology undertaking exploration, the private sector’s role remained subdued despite having the expertise and technology,” pointed out Sharma, as the NERP rule stipulated that the permit holder will not be entitled to make claim for prospective license-cum-mining lease.