In 2008, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) published a detailed report on the mining sector titled: Rich Lands, Poor People: Is sustainable mining possible? We pointed out that minerals are found where there are forests, from where water comes and where adivasis and the poorest of India live. These are also the places where Naxalism is spreading. We intervened to ask for a new social and environmental contract in the mining sector, keeping in mind the need to utilize mineral resources, but also the interests of the people and the environment. Such considerations fructified in the form of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill (MMDR), 2011. But due to disagreements within the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and pressure from the industry, the Bill was allowed to lapse in February 2014. We believe that the MMDR Bill, 2011, made an attempt to balance all concerns.
There were lacunae in it, but it recognised the need to incorporate community interests and environmental protection. In this way, there was a movement forward in the 2011 Bill from the MMDR Act of 1957.
Now we have the MMDR Amendment Act, 2015, which was passed by the Parliament in March 2015. Though the amendments introduced to the 1957 Act leave much to be done with respect to ensuring a sustainable mining future, it does create an opportunity to address the injustice that has been inflicted upon communities in the mining areas. It provides for the establishment of the District Mineral Foundation (DMF), a Trust that would function as a non-profit body to “work for the interest and benefit of persons, and areas affected by mining related operations”. The Act further states that the objective and functioning of the DMF should be guided by Constitutional provisions as it relates to Fifth and Sixth Schedules for governing tribal areas. It should also be guided by the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 – in short the Forest Rights Act (FRA).