The government on Tuesday formed a high-level panel headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to sort out the inter-ministerial differences over the proposed new mining legislation.
"At the behest of the Prime Minister, a group of ministers (GoM) has been formed to solve the inter-ministerial differences over the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Bill," a senior government official said.
Mukherjee will head the 10-member panel, the official said.
The GoM comprises Home Minister P Chidambaram, Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, Mines Minister BK Handique, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Tribal Affairs Minister Kantilal Bhuria, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, and Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
The Mines Ministry is expected to send the proposed Bill to the GoM on Wednesday, which will deliberate on many issues including more conservation of minerals, powers of granting mining leases, reservation of mineral-bearing areas for PSUs among others.
Steel and mines ministries have been at loggerheads for long over the issue of exporting iron ore.
Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh had recently wrote to the Prime Minister and Mukherjee to restrict such shipments and increase its domestic availability, which was opposed by the Mines ministry.
The domestic output of iron ore is over 200 million tonne, half of which is exported.
The Law Ministry, which vetted the proposed legislation, has stressed on the need of conservation of such minerals and even pitched for naming the new act as "Mines and Minerals Conservation, Development Regulation Act," the official added. However, the Mines Ministry expressed its reservations to such a view.
The Law Ministry had also refereed to a latest ruling by the Supreme Court that the Centre had sovereign authority over the natural resources.
The judgement was delivered in the dispute between Mukesh Ambani and his younger brother Anil, whose group firm wanted cheaper natural gas from RIL led by Mukesh.
The Mines Ministry is, however, of the opinion that the Law Ministry has made "reference to the case but has not made any specific suggestions," another official said, adding the case concerned talks about off-shore minerals for which there is a separate act. The ministry is also hoping to get help from Home Ministry to rope in the National Investigation Agency to check track funds flowing to insurgents from illegal mining operations.