Coming down heavily on the mining industry over concessions and freebies, Mines Minister Piyush Goyal today said the time of “free lunches” is over.
Goyal, who also heads ministries of Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy, said the industry should look at an era of transparency, fair play, concern for labour and health and happiness of the people impacted by mining.
Speaking at industry body Federation of Indian Mineral Industries’ annual conclave, the minister said that the argument on reducing import duty on iron ore does not hold much ground.
“Argument is that you want to export mineral out, but there is a local demand which continues to import from abroad. You will not correct your prices to meet that demand, but would rather let leave it in stock or rather export it or wait for government to give you that concession to export,” he said.
He further said: “So to my mind, things have changed. I may be sounding harsh to you, but I think it’s time that we all recognise that national interest will prevail over industry interest. Free lunches are over…”
Goyal said that the government wants the industry to have a greater degree of competition as well as wants there to be a fair availability of materials.
On extension of non-captive mines, the Minister said: “It is enough that government has given extension to non-captive mines till 2020. This you (miners) got free of charge, you are minting money out of that. Let the nation also get some money out of it which can go for public welfare.
“So be happy about 2020 and don’t push me to reconsider that by going for 2030. We (government) have thought this through in great detail, including in the Cabinet…”
Attacking the sector on freebies, he said: “There is a good bank balance … created in the last 50-100 years. You got free mines. What you did not labour (employees), broke labour laws, we all know.
“So let bygones be bygones, look at it as an era of transparency, fair play, concern for labour and the health and happiness of the people impacted and be concerned for the environment and be conscious of paying your taxes…”
He, however, said that mineral industry has an extremely important role to play in creating national wealth.
On mineral exploration, he said: “You raised a point that no industry has survived or thrived based on exploration being carried out by the government. I can fully agree with you on that.
“But other than a few rogue nations or banana republics, no nation in the world has the kind of corruption and evasion of taxes and illegalities that probably we have created over the last many years.”
After all why would Supreme Court cancel 204 coal blocks and declare them illegal and arbitrary allotments, he added.
Also in some parts of the world such as Australia and the US, land area is vast and few people are interested in exploration, but in India, it is completely opposite, the minister explained.