The Act is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment. The Mines Act, 1952 contains provisions for measures relating to the health, safety and welfare of workers in the coal, metalliferous and oil mines.
The Act prescribes the duties of the owner to manage mines and mining operation and the health and safety in mines. It also prescribes the number of working hours in mines, the minimum wage rates, and other related matters.
Through the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS). DGMS is the Indian Government regulatory agency for safety in mines and oil-fields.
The mine owners are required to make provision for
- Creches if 50 or more women are employed.
- Shelters for taking food and rest, whenever 150 or more workers are employed.
- A canteen whenever 250 or more workers are employed.
- First aid boxes and first aid rooms in mines employing more than 150 workers.
- Pit head baths equipped with shower baths, sanitary latrines and lockers, separately for male and female workers.
Objectives the Mines Act 1952
To understand the aims, objectives, and limitations of this Act, it is necessary to define what ‘Mines’ are called. Sec 2(i) of the Act defines ‘Mines’ as any kind of evacuations or extraction operated upon earth’s crust in order to obtain minerals.
Hence, the basic objective of the Act is to provide labour and safety of the mines as well as to amend and regulate the legislation for the betterment of labourers and workmen employed in it.
The regulatory framework of the mining industry is taken care of by both central and state governments. Generally, there are two types of minerals. One is called ‘Major minerals’ and another is called ‘Minor Minerals’. Policies are made in relation to the exploration, extraction, and process of all minor minerals (such as building stones, clay, and sand) by State Governments whereas, the federal government takes the charge of revision, fixing of royalty, issuing regulations, etc of major minerals.
‘The Ministry of Mines’, an apex body that is handled by the Government of India is responsible for legislation in regards to the mining sector, its policy formulation for proper functioning and administration of mines and minerals in the country. It is principally composed of four departments namely –
- The Geological Survey of India (GSI);
- The Indian Bureau of Mines;
- The Controller of Mining Leases; and
- The Directorate General of Mines Safety.
Amendments to Mines Act 1952
In India the Mines Act was first enacted in the year 1901. The original Mines Act was replaced in 1923 and subsequently in 1952 the Parliament has enacted the present Mines Act. The Act was last amended in 1983.
Subsequent to the 1983 amendment, several developments have taken place in the area of technology, scale of operations, working environment and work practices in coal, non-coal and oil sector. Mining operations are getting progressively more mechanized with the introduction of heavy machines, shallow deposits getting depleted and mines becoming deeper with their attendant complexities.
Several Courts of Inquiry and Parliamentary Committees and Sub-Committees have also recommended in the past that the Mines Act, 1952 be amended so as to keep pace with time.
Therefore, the new preamble describes the Mines Act, 1952 as “An Act to amend and consolidate the law relating to regulation of condition of work and welfare of persons employed in mines and for the matter connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
It is proposed to extend the jurisdiction of this Act upto the Exclusive Economic Zones an Maritime Zones of India as defined in the Territorial Waters, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and Other Maritime Zones Ac, 1976. (80 of 1976).
In order to prevent evasion of responsibility and any confusion regarding management hierarchy, the term ‘agent’ is being proposed to be submitted by a new definition whereby “Agent” means every person, superior to the Manager and whether appointed as such or not, who, on behalf of the owner, takes part in the management, control, supervision or direction of the mine or any part.
The proposed definition of “Owner” means every person or authority having ultimate control over the affairs of the mine and specifies such person ( viz. Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director) or authority under all possible circumstances in the present scenario. The proposed definition is more comprehensive and is in line with the Companies Act, 1952 ( 1 of 1952).
It is further proposed to provide that every person who contracts for the services or operations in a mine, and includes a contractor and sub-contractor, shall also be the owner.
Mining being very hazardous where any negligence may lead to loss of lives, the penalties need to be made stringent, at least in line with those of other similar Acts, so that the offender is not let off with a token penalty, as is mostly the case. Hence penalties have been enhanced by about 100 times.
The burden to prove before an authority or court of law that all necessary measures had been taken and due diligence used to comply with the provisions etc. shall be that of the offender (section 74 A). This proposed provision is similar to the provisions contained in section 104A in the Factories Act, 1948 and section 16 and 17 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The Prime Minister’s Office on 24.2.2010 directed the Ministry of Labour & Employment to place the matter before the Committee of Secretaries for its consideration. The Committee of Secretaries has considered the proposal in its meeting held on 18.5.2010 and has decided that the Ministry of Labour and Employment may notify the proposed amendments to the Indian Mines Act, 1952 without affecting the existing rules made by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural gas. The proposed amendments under the Indian Mines Act, 1952 will be over and above the rules as already notified by Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and will be consistent with them.