It is a consensus amongst geoscientists that India is endowed with large mineral resource and has geological environment for many others on account of similarity of geological set up with Australia, South Africa, South America etc. However, survey and exploration have been broadly concentrated on surficial and shallow mineral deposits. Exploration for deep and concealed deposits is a cost-intensive and high-risk enterprise which requires state-of-the-art technology and expertise.
This was stated by Minister of Mines Narender Singh Tomar while launching the new Mineral Exploration Policy. In view of the above, he said, the efforts made by the government agencies require to be extensively supplemented with the expertise and technological innovations available worldwide with the private sector.
The minister pointed out that the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015 has brought in transparency in allocation of mineral concessions in terms of Prospecting License and Mining Lease. The present regime of grant of mineral concessions provides for Non Exclusive Reconnaissance Permit (NERP) which does not allow seamless transitions to prospecting and mining licences.
On account of this, Tomar said, the private sectors do not seem to be enthused to take up high risk of exploration. Keeping this in view, National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP) prescribes for incentivising the participation of private companies in exploration.
Under NMEP, private agencies would be engaged to carry out exploration with the right to a certain share in the revenue (by way of royalty/premium to be accruing to the state government) from the successful bidder of mineral block after e-auction, which will be discovered by that private explorer. The revenue sharing could be either in the form of a lump sum or an annuity, to be paid throughout the period of mining lease, with transferable rights.
Government will also work out normative cost of exploration works for different kinds of minerals so that the exploration agencies could be compensated, in case they could not discover any mineable reserves in their respective areas. This will be an added incentive for exploration agencies to mitigate their risk of exploration.
The selection of private explorer is proposed to be done following a transparent process of competitive bidding.
2. Acquisition, processing and interpretation of pre-competitive baseline geoscience data play a pivotal role in successful exploration process. In this regard, the NMEP proposes the following:
i. The pre-competitive baseline geoscientific data will be created as a public good and will be fully available for open dissemination free of charge.
ii. A National Aero-geophysical Mapping program will be launched to map the entire country. It will help to delineate the deep-seated and concealed mineral deposits.
3. National Geoscience Data Repository (NGDR) will be set up. GSI will collate all baseline and mineral exploration information generated by various central and state government agencies and also mineral concession holders and maintain these on a geospatial database.
4. Government will coordinate and collaborate with scientific and research bodies, universities and industry for the scientific and technological research to address the mineral exploration challenges in the country. For this, the Government proposes to establish a not-for-profit autonomous body/ company that will be known as the National Centre for Mineral Targeting (NCMT).
5. State Governments have a key role in building up a steady stream of auctionable prospects. They will have to take up mineral exploration and complete to G3 or G2 level for auctioning. The States need to build up the exploration capabilities, technical expertise and infrastructure facility. The Central Government will provide support to States for capacity building from National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET).
6. NMEP proposes to launch a special initiative to probe deep-seated/concealed mineral deposits in the country on the lines of UNCOVER project of Australia. The pilot project will be in collaboration with National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and the proposed National Centre for Mineral Targeting (NCMT)) and Geoscience Australia.
7. SBI Capital Markets Ltd (SBICAP) has been selected as consultant by the Ministry of Mines for development of detailed modalities of contractual framework for mineral exploration. The Ministry will provide handholding support to the State Governments in this process of engaging the private agencies.