The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from the Union mines ministry and the Rajasthan mining department on an appeal by Hindustan Zinc seeking to continue mining of deep seated minerals like lead, zinc and silver in the Sindesar Khurd mining lease area of the state.
A bench, led by Chief Justice N V Ramana, while seeking response from the Central government and the state mining authorities asked the parties to maintain status quo with regard to the mining in the Sindesar Khurd mining lease area.
HZL has moved the Supreme Court against the Rajasthan high court’s September order that dismissed its application for amending its plea pursuant to deletion of Section 10C, which was introduced first time in the 2015 Amendment Act, to specifically cater to the mining of deep seated minerals by providing for the granting of prospecting, license-cum-mining lease or a mining lease.
Prior to 2015, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 did not specifically cater to the existence and exploration of deep seated minerals and such miners incurred significant losses due to no return on the funds invested in exploration of the ore body, senior counsel CA Sundaram argued.
The Act at present, once again, does not contain any provision with regard to the deep seated minerals.
The HC had deprived HZL of its right to challenge the constitutionality and validity of the Amendments of 2021 (which has a direct bearing on its rights) and despite its writ petition continuing to be pending in the HC, the division bench of the HC had vacated the interim arrangement that allowed HZL to continue mining operations in the existing Sindesar Khurd mining lease area, subject to it complying with all requirements in law till the rules on deep-seated minerals are framed by the Central government for deep-seated minerals, the appeal stated.
According to HZL, after the apex court had given liberty to it to ‘challenge the validity of the statute’, in July 2020, it was, therefore, its prerogative to challenge those provisions which it understood were being ‘unconstitutional, invalid or unreasonable’. “Because a liberal approach ought to be taken in deciding an application for amendment due to a subsequent change in law…,” the appeal filed through counsel Rohini Musa stated.
In September last year, the HC while rejecting the HZL’s amendment application had held that the company was attempting to challenge Sections 11 and 10B of the MMDR Act time and again by taking a different stand. “Now, when Section 10C itself stands deleted, the question of the Central government framing rules in respect of the reconnaissance and prospecting operation of deep seated mineral in terms of the proviso to Section 10C of MMDR Act does not arise and thus, as a matter of fact, the provisions of Section 13(2)(ac) has rendered redundant,” the HC judgment stated.
While the company had filed a substantial challenge to the provisions of the Act that were found to be contradictory to Section 10C, the Central government had in January last year stated that the ‘Central government is in the process of framing rules to regulate the deep seated mining”. This was because under Section 13(2)(ac), the Central government has been empowered to framed rules regarding the level of exploration in respect of the deep seated minerals, according to the appeal.