Latest CEC meeting: DMF portal, drones

The Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee on Mineral Development and Regulation (CEC) meets at irregular intervals. The minutes and meeting notes provide fascinating reading. We had recommended the use of LiDAR, drones and mobile weighbridges to keep a tight leash on mining. We also recommend participatory budgeting for District Mineral Foundations (DMFs). It is positive that the Central Government is creating a portal for monitoring DMFs and introducing satellite and drone surveillance. On the other hand, it is worrying that already Rs. 5,000 crores have accumulated in DMFs, with little visibility on spending. This is in the latest meeting on Feb 28, 2017.

The Ministry of Mines is in the process of engaging National Institute of Smart Governance (NISG) for development of a centralized portal for monitoring implementation of DMF/ PMKKY. NISG would be helping all the states in developing their own portals. The State Governments were requested to collect the details of the royalty payments and the contribution received by them towards DMF and NMET and to share requisite information for the portal. The State Governments could facilitate DMF remittances (inward and outward) through electronic payment mode only so as to facilitate ease of transaction for all the concerned parties and also help in generating easily verifiable audit trail. It was informed that more than INR 5,000 crore has already been collected as contributions to the DMFs and the effective date of commencement for collection of DMF contribution is likely to be decided by the Supreme Court soon. Accordingly, the State Governments were advised to expeditiously review and implement programmes under DMF.

The Centre also recommends the extension of the Mining Surveillance System to minor minerals.

The Union Secretary informed that the MSS has been developed for monitoring major mineral leases with the help of remote sensing to check any illegal mining cases. Whenever MSS generates a trigger, State Governments need to get the triggered matters verified through field verification within a specified time period of 7 days, through the district level officers. Further, the State Governments were advised to submit action plans for implementation of MSS for ‘minor minerals’ with the support of State Remote Sensing Centres. The State Governments were offered the technical and capacity building support of IBM for execution of the action plans within the next
six months.

Tata Steel is already utilising drone to monitor mining and will be assisting the government. Perhaps a smart move, a way of countering competition from illegal miners.

IBM is proposing to introduce the ‘Drone Technology’ to the mining sector with the assistance of Tata Steels Ltd. This technology would help the State Governments in monitoring the compliance of the mining lease holder with the mining plan and in keeping a check on the amount of royalty paid by the mining lease holder as against the actual quantity of mineral extracted from the mining lease. Tata Steels Ltd. made a presentation on how it has deployed ‘Drone Technology’ and Photogrammetry tools to monitor the lease area (i.e. mining progress, compliance of actual mining vis-à-vis approved mine plan, lease boundary management etc.). MECL and GSI have been advised to study how drone technology could be adopted.

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