Editorial 1: India’s mining policy shift


  • On August 2, Parliament passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2023, in a bid to attract private sector investment in the exploration of critical and deep-seated minerals in the country.


  • The Bill puts six minerals, including lithium — used in electric vehicle batteries and other energy storage solutions — into a list of “critical and strategic” minerals. The exploration and mining of these six minerals, previously classified as atomic minerals, were restricted to government-owned entities.

Import of India’s critical minerals

  • The clean energy transitions of countries including India, seeking to meet their net-zero emission goals, are contingent on the availability of critical minerals such as lithium, which has also been called ‘white gold’, and others including cobalt, graphite, and rare earth elements (REEs).
  • These are also crucial for the manufacture of semiconductors used in smart electronics; defence and aerospace equipment; telecommunication technologies and so on.
  • The lack of availability of such minerals or the concentration of their extraction or processing in a few geographical locations leads to import dependency, supply chain vulnerabilities, and even disruption of their supplies.
  • As per figures quoted by the Ministry, India is 100% import-dependent on countries including China, Russia, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S. for the supply of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, niobium, beryllium, and tantalum.
  • Also for deep-seated minerals like gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, nickel, cobalt, platinum group elements (PGEs) and diamonds, which are difficult and expensive to explore and mine as compared to surficial or bulk minerals, India depends largely on imports.

 Critical minerals exploration

  • The primary step to discovering mineral resources and eventually finding economically viable reserves is mineral exploration, which comes in various stages before mining.
  • The stages of exploration are divided as per the United Nations Framework for Classification of Resources into G4 (Reconnaissance), G3 (Prospecting), G2 (General Exploration), and G1 (Detailed Exploration).
  • Notably, it is estimated that India has explored just 10% of its Obvious Geological Potential (OGP), less than 2% of which is mined and the country spends less than 1% of the global mineral exploration budget.
  • Exploration requires techniques like aerial surveys, geological mapping, and geochemical analyses and is a highly specialised, time-intensive and monetarily risky operation with less than 1% of explored projects becoming commercially viable mines.

India’s mining policy

  • The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Act), 1957, the primary legislation governing mining in the country has been amended several times since its enactment including recently in 2015, 2020, and 2021.
  • Later, private companies could also get Prospecting Licences (PL) or Mining Leases (ML), and could even apply for early-stage or greenfield exploration through Reconnaissance Permits (RPs).
  • In 2015, the MMDR Act was amended to allow private companies to participate in government auctions for Mining Leases and Composite Licences (CLs).
  • However, due to the Evidence of Mineral content (EMT) rule, only government-explored projects were auctioned, limiting private sector involvement.
  • The amendment also permitted private firms to register as exploration agencies, with the National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET) funding for G4 to G1 exploration, but private participation remained limited.

The  Mines and Minerals Bill 2023

  • Firstly, the Bill omits at least six previously mentioned atomic minerals from a list of 12 which cannot be commercially mined.
  • Being on the atomic minerals list, the exploration and mining of these six — lithium, beryllium, niobium, titanium, tantalum and zirconium, was previously reserved for government entities.
  • Secondly, the Act prohibits pitting, trenching, drilling, and sub-surface excavation as part of reconnaissance, which included mapping and surveys. The Bill allows these prohibited activities.
  • The Bill also proposes a new type of licence to encourage reconnaissance — level and or prospective stage exploration by the private sector.
  • This exploration licence (EL), for a period of five years (extendable by two years), will be granted by the State government by way of competitive bidding.
  • This licence will be issued for 29 minerals specified in the Seventh Schedule of the amended Act, which would include critical, strategic, and deep-seated minerals.

Way forward

  • Privatization comes with risks of monopolization and black marketeering. Mining sector already prone to irregularities and corruption. Thus, the Government should design a mechanism to include safeguards.
  • Nothing in the Bill ensures that mineral allocation will be prioritized for public sector companies. The Government must make provisions for allocation to public sector first and the remaining should be allocated to the private companies.

Editorial 2: Neither the right to privacy nor the right to information


  • The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill 2023 makes the government less transparent to the people and ends up making them transparent to both the government and private interests.

The Bill

  • Personal data bill will boost digital economy, says Nasscom.’ This industry response to the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2023 that was introduced in Parliament reveals the real purpose of the Bill — legalising data mining rather than safeguarding the right to privacy.
  • The right to privacy was reaffirmed by a nine-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in 2017.
  • The right to information provides us access to government documents to ensure transparency and accountability of the government.
  • Enacted as a law, the Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 has played a critical role in deepening democratic practices.
  • The much-awaited DPDP Bill 2023 ends up undermining our right to information, without doing much to protect our right to privacy.

The issues of Rights

  • In a crucial way, the two rights complement each other.
  • Broadly speaking, the right to information seeks to make the government transparent to us, while the right to privacy is meant to protect us from government (and increasingly, private) intrusions into our lives.
  • Yet, there are some tensions between the right to information and the right to privacy.
  • However, the recently introduced DPDP Bill 2023 makes little attempt to deal with these hard questions. Instead, it makes the government less transparent to us while making us transparent to both the government and private interests.

Undermining the Right to Information

  • The Right to Information Act 2005 anticipated some of these tensions and the consequent need to limit its own reach.
  • Therefore, Section 8 of the RTI 2005 listed situations where “exemption from disclosure of information” would be granted.
  • Section 8(1)(j) grants exemption from disclosure if the information which relates to personal information sought has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, unless a public information officer feels that larger public interest justifies disclosure.
  • It set a high benchmark for exemption – information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.
  • The DPDP Bill 2023 suggests replacing Section 8(1)(j) with just “information which relates to personal information”. This will undermine the RTI 2005.

Ignoring social, political and legal context

  • The DPDP 2023 suffers from other shortcomings. For instance, the Data Protection Board, an oversight body will be under the boot of the government as the chairperson and members are to be appointed by the central government.
  • The DPDP Bill 2023 attempts to pass off a lame-duck as a watchdog.
  • In Europe, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set a high standard for data protection. It has a strong watchdog that operates in a society with universal literacy, and high digital and financial literacy.
  • Restricting data collection is not even being discussed in India.


  • A weak board combined with the lack of universal literacy and poor digital and financial literacy, as well as an overburdened legal system, mean that the chances that citizens will be able to seek legal recourse when privacy harms are inflicted on them are slim.


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