India: In a bid to create a suitable ecosystem around the newly unveiled National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP), the Indian government has decided to create a National Geoscience Data Repository (NGDR) under Geological Survey of India (GSI) and a National Center for Mineral Targeting (MCMT), the latter a public-private initiative, for all noncoal and nonfuel resources.
The mandate of the NGDR will be to develop a mineral exploration reporting template, digitisation of all maps compatible with geographic information system (GIS) for sharing with the public, digitisation of all baseline geosciences data and exploration reports, and a core repository with all digital and analog data of core logs.
The MCMT will be tasked with uncovering deep-seated and concealed mineral deposits in collaboration with agencies in India and overseas.
At a meeting of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Mines Ministry with representatives of mining agencies and companies of the central and provincial governments, held earlier this month, it was decided that in order to achieve the purported goal of the NMEP of attracting domestic and foreign private agencies into mineral exploration, free access to geosciences data would be provided until the precompetitive stage of any proposed auction of mineral assets.
The Ministry of Defence, which initially objected to providing geosciences data to private agencies, came round to the Mines Ministry’s view and gave its formal ‘no objection’ to this proposal.
The CEC perceives this as a way to incentivise NMEP 2016, which, among other things, provides for exploration projects through private agencies. Subsequently, government, including provincial authorities, will auction off the identified explored mineral blocks, on a revenue sharing basis, in case exploration agencies find “auctionable” resources.
If exploration agencies do not find “auctionable” resources, exploration investments and expenditures will be reimbursed.
The CEC has determined that all government-generated baseline geoscience data will be treated as a “public good” for free dissemination, for which GIS is in the process of developing an Online Core Business Integration System (OCBIS) to make available all data, information and products in a spatially enabled environment. The beta version of OCBIS is scheduled to go ‘live’ in September 2016.
The core funding of the activities will come from the newly created National Mineral Exploration Trust (NMET), which according to estimates of the Mines Ministry should be able to net about $60-million a year from levies on miners. Since its inception a few months ago, NMET has been able to mop up $42-million.
Under funding from NMET, 13 projects for regional and detailed exploration have been firmed up. These include two in Odisha, three in Madhya Pradesh, four in Chhattisgarh, two in Maharasthra, and one each in Jharkhand and Karnataka.
GSI has identified around 100 mineral blocks to be covered for such projects for regional and detailed exploration. Of these, GSI will directly take up 10 blocks for exploration and Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited, a government company, will pick up another 30 projects.