In the first major review of Jairam Ramesh's policy as in-charge of the environment ministry, environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has agreed to review the March 2011 order, which imposed fresh conditions for considering mining sector projects.
In the four page order, the ministry had imposed a new condition that mining companies cannot seek environment clearance for projects involving forestland without getting stage-I forest clearance.
Stage-I clearance is for conducting environment impact studies and stage-II is the final approval.
Any mining project on forestland needs two clearances — forest and environment — to operationalise mines. Till the March 31 order, the companies were allowed to simultaneously apply for the two clearances.
Ministry, with Ramesh's approval, changed the rule and also advised companies to seek approval only for non-forestland where the ministry's Expert Appraisal Committee was considering mining projects for final approval without mandatory forest clearance.
Another key change was refusal to allow expansion of mining projects in forest areas without fresh clearance. Earlier, up to 25% expansion was allowed without prior forest approval.
The order created lot of fear in the mine sector and it was apparent when coal minister Shriprakash Jaiswal raised the issue at a Group of Minister's meeting on Tuesday. Sources said Jaiswal termed it an unnecessary impediment in coal extraction.
Natarajan reportedly agreed to review the controversial order issued during Ramesh's tenure. But was non-committal on scrapping the order.