Ensuring smooth operations in the iron ore mining belt, the steel ministry in a recent move has proposed setting up special mining zones (SMZs) similar to the special economic zones in iron ore-rich regions. The move will result in heightened steel production as it will improve the supply of iron ore, a key raw material in steel production. Under the new mechanism, mines in the notified areas could be excluded from requiring prior clearances under various laws. They will be auctioned to steel companies and administered by an environmental authority.
Steel projects in the SMZs will get single-window clearance, which in turn will result in ensuring that individual companies do not have to go back and forth on various clearances and focus on their core business. Under the plan, all iron ore-rich areas in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Karnataka—except those that have extreme biodiversity sensitivity—may be notified as SMZs and such areas may be excluded from the requirement of prior clearance under various laws. Under the provision, the SMZs will be under the jurisdiction of a special environmental authority, which will lay down a detailed mining plan, supported by a comprehensive environment management plan after which the area will then be allocated to steel companies through a transparent auction process, said official sources.