The Centre decided to put 31 minerals under the control of state governments by scaling down their status from major to minor as part of a mining policy change, mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar said on Thursday.
This would allow states to decide the mining lease of these minerals, which account for about 60% of the total leased area in the country.
“It is an important step in fulfilling the minimum government, maximum governance motto of our government,” said Tomar. “This is being done to devolve more power to the states and expedite the process of mineral development in the country.”
States cannot lease out major minerals — such as coal and iron ore — without mandatory clearances from Central ministries.
High revenue-earners coal and iron ore retain their positions as major minerals even after the policy shift.
The decision to broaden the list of minor minerals would drastically shorten the lease approval process because the state would be dealing with all the paperwork, an official said. Production would go up too. But on the flipside, the country could be treading on a minefield of environmental degradation if adequate protection measures were not taken.
The decentralised minerals include quartz, chalk, china clay and gypsum.
The change in policy would let states decide the rate of royalty, contribution to the district mineral foundation, procedure for grant of mineral concessions and rules. The mines ministry would allow states’ public sector undertakings to explore minerals in areas under their jurisdiction.
Tomar said putting state PSUs on the prospector’s seat would strengthen the mineral inventory database of the country.