Sustainable Development Framework to complement green nod for mining

Written by Kiritika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 21 2012, 09:29am hrs
In an attempt to increase monitoring of mining projects and make miners accountable for mining activities, the environment ministry has agreed to the mines ministrys proposal of a Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) which will comprise guidelines for reporting initiatives and restoration conditions for mining. The SDF needs to be submitted to regulators at the time of seeking clearance or renewal or extension.

However, the ministry has stated that the framework is only a tool for leaseholders to comply with disclosure mechanisms and not a substitute for environment clearance.

The framework is important especially for reinstating restoration and reclamation conditions which are put when giving environment clearances to these projects. However, the framework is not a substitute for requirement of environment clearance under the environment impact assessment, said a senior environment ministry official.

The SDF will facilitate the scientific development and exploration of mineral resources and ensure the protection of the environment and prevention and control of pollution from prospecting and mining related operations. Besides, it will state broad criteria beyond which mining may not be deemed sufficiently sustainable or scientifically manageable.

Modeled on the lines of International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) and International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), it can be used to assess the applications for mining leases, expansions and green clearances.

The mines ministry, too has agreed with the ministry of environment and forests' proposal and said that the SDF is a tool for ensuring that a lease holder complies with all the statutory requirements as part of best practices and disclosure mechanisms.

In fact, the draft new Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011, which was introduced in Parliament and is currently being vetted by a standing committee, says that the SDF should consist of a mine closure plan for each mine a final mine closure plan.

This additional level of monitoring is needed because states are not monitoring these projects the way they should, the official added.

The outcomes of adopting SDF in the long term are likely to include, reduced environmental and social conflicts in mining areas, clarity for stakeholders on risk level in mining lease areas, delays in obtaining clearances, strong monitoring and assurance systems and reporting on governance and ethical practices.