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Union Government Permits Commercial Coal Mining

Finance Minister announced that 50 blocks will be offered immediately

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open-pit coal mining
Goverment has decided to allow Commercial coal mining. Pixabay

In a major reform, Finance News suggests that the Union government has decided to permit commercial mining of coal.

Speaking to the media here on Saturday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said to introduce competition, transparency and the private sector participation in the coal sector, the government would go for the revenue sharing mechanism instead of the fixed rupee or tonne mechanism.

Earlier, only captive consumers with end-to-end ownership could bid for the coal mines. Now any one can bid and sell the produce in the open market on commercial terms.

Stating that nearly 50 blocks will be offered immediately, Sitharaman said there would be no eligibility conditions apart from upfront payment with a ceiling.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that there would be no eligibility conditions apart from upfront payment with a ceiling. Wikimedia Commons

Also, against the earlier provision of auction of fully explored coal blocks, now even partially explored blocks could be auctioned. Production, earlier than schedule, will be incentivised through rebate in the revenue share.

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The government will also incentivise coal gasification or liquefaction through rebate in the revenue share. It would significantly lower environment impact and also help India switch to a gas-based economy, she added.

The Rs 50,000 crore infrastructure development will be carried out for it. This will help Coal India (CIL) raise production from 600 million tonnes to 1 billion tonnes by 2023-24.

The announcements are part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. (IANS)

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Dangers From Deep-Sea Mining Hazardous: Reports

Scientists and environmentalists are urging an international moratorium on deep-sea mining

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Deep Sea Mining
Impact on the Pacific Ocean and island states of deep-sea mining would be severe. Pixabay

Scientists and environmentalists are urging an international moratorium on deep-sea mining after releasing a report indicating its impact on the Pacific Ocean and island states would be severe, extensive and last for generations.

The report also said mining for polymetallic nodules, potato-sized lumps found in the seabed that contain metals used in battery manufacturing and high-tech industries, would cause “essentially irreversible damage” to the region, including Kiribati the Cook Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu. Entitled “Predicting the Impacts of Mining Deep Sea Polymetallic Nodules in the Pacific Ocean,” the 52-page report represents a scientific consensus based on 250 peer-reviewed articles, and 80 NGOs are now calling for a moratorium as a result.

“There’s the removal of the nodules themselves and the sediment that will be stirred up and also the waste that’s going to be discharged from the mining process,” said Helen Rosenbaum, coordinator for the Deep Sea Mining Campaign. “At this point we don’t know what’s going to be in that sediment, what kind of heavy metals might be there, how bio-available they are, that is how readily they might be taken up in the food chain.”

Exploration licenses

Increased demand for the metals — cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese — has bolstered deep-sea mining for polymetallic nodules.

Deep sea life
Scientists and environmentalists are urging an international moratorium on deep-sea mining (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP)

The International Seabed Authority, an intergovernmental organization based in Kingston, Jamaica, has issued about 30 exploration licenses – 25 in the Pacific Ocean, and 18 of those in the Clarion Clipperton Zone, which stretches from Kiribati to Mexico, where DeepGreen — a Canadian mining company that plans to mine these metals with an eye toward electric vehicles — hopes to be the first to begin operations by 2024.

DeepGreen Chief Executive Officer Gerard Barron was unimpressed by the report, saying deep-sea mining offers the best alternative to surface mining, which has a long history of pollution and the destruction of forests, habitats and wildlife. “I think it was a bias, narrow view, which doesn’t address any the issues, by a group of people that have their hearts set on trying to stop the progress of this industry,” he said.

He added, though, that severe shortfalls in metals used in high-tech industries are emerging. Some were available under rainforests in countries such as Indonesia but extracting those metals would exact an enormous toll on the local environment, he said. “The argument should be what has the lowest impact from an environmental and a societal perspective,” he said, adding the Clarion Clipperton Zone contained “enough nickel and cobalt there to electrify a billion electric vehicles.”

“We have a choice to continue to go into these biodiverse areas and destroy these biodiverse habitats. “Or we can ramp up ocean science studies and say: ‘Look if ever Mother Nature was to put a large abundant resource somewhere out of harm’s way, 4,000 meters below sea level, a thousand miles from the nearest land mass would seem to be a pretty good place.'”

Unrealistic financial expectations

However, environmentalists remain skeptical, warning cash-strapped island states – already feeling the effects of climate change – against unrealistic financial expectations from mining and the poor track record of surface miners in the region. That includes a nine-year war fought on Bougainville which emerged from a dispute over a copper mine, extensive damage to the Fly River system in Papua New Guinea caused by the Ok Tedi open pit gold mine and long-running disputes over phosphate mining on Nauru.

Deep sea mining
Deep-sea mining poses a serious threat to the habitat. VOA

Last year Canadian company Nautilus Minerals went bankrupt, abandoning its deep sea mining ambitions, which cost PNG about $120 million. “We don’t know if there’s going to be other toxic substances such as processing agents in the mine-ways,” Rosenbaum added. “One thing we know is, it’s going to be constant plume of sediment and whatever the sediment is carrying for the life of the mine.” The report found sperm whales, whale sharks, Leatherback turtles and bird life could be at as much risk from nutrient enrichment and metal toxicity as commercial fish such as tuna.

“Also, local communities in the Pacific are worried about their way of life being disrupted because they’re very connected to the ocean environment,” she said. Emeline Siale Ilolahia, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, echoed her sentiments. “For me it was really like, ban the whole system from any mining until we have more scientific information available for our decision makers,” Ilolahia said.

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“We are now in a situation of COVID-19 and we see in our countries are struggling to have funds to support the response in-country and then you always question in your mind, thinking; where has the money coming from mining gone?” she said. (VOA)

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The USD/INR Outlook – Is the Indian Rupee in Decline?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic Indian economy is expected to contract by 5% in the financial year 2021

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Indian Rupee has fluctuated wildly during the last couple of weeks mainly bacuse of the pandemic. Pixabay

Not all nations have handled the coronavirus outbreak with the same measure of efficiency, with India’s chaotic lockdown and confused messaging creating significant uncertainty about the region’s short and medium-term future.

According to the American brokerage firm Goldman Sachs, the Indian economy is subsequently expected to contract by 5% in the financial year 2021, representing the nation’s worst ever performance in this respect.

Despite this sustained economic decline, the Indian Rupee has fluctuated wildly during the last couple of weeks. But why is this the case, and what’s the long-term outlook for this emerging currency?

How has the INR Fared in Recent Times?

Unsurprisingly, the Indian Rupee edged lower during the first week of May, pairing back some of the gains that it made since its initial crash in March (when the lockdown was first announced at incredibly short notice).

Indian rupee
The INR has also enjoyed brief periods of growth against the USD more recently. Pixabay

This depreciation came after the INR actually made gains of 0.3% against the greenback at the end of April, capping three consecutive weeks of modestly rising sentiment for the INR/USD.

This decline came against the backdrop of an increasingly negative economic outlook, with agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank providing decidedly downbeat forecasts for medium and longer-term growth.

However, the INR has also enjoyed brief periods of growth against the USD more recently, as it began to incrementally recoup losses and trade within a far wider range. This was largely attributed to better-than-expected Chinese export data, but this trend will not necessarily be sustained over time.

What Does This Tell Us About the Market?

The most recent rise in the performance of the INR also highlighted a slight increase in the market’s appetite for risk, with traders leveraging platforms such as Oanda to track daily price shifts and profit directly from these as the global sentiment improves incrementally against a backdrop of falling Covid-19 cases.

The INR remains a currency to avoid for risk-averse traders, however, particularly as a growing fiscal deficit and increased quantitative easing measures in India continue to restrict growth and devalue the rupee considerably.

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The most recent rise in the performance of the INR also highlighted a slight increase in the market’s appetite for risk Pixabay

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This, combined with rising daily volatility and a slight increase in demand, will definitely divide opinion in the forex market depending on each trader’s unique outlook and overall investment philosophy.

These factors also combine to create an increasingly negative long-term outlook, especially for the remainder of 2020.

Make no mistake; as quantitative easing continues and the base interest rate in India remains noticeably low, the value of the INR will depreciate incrementally over time while experiencing a significant shortage in demand.

[Disclaimer: The article published above promotes links of commercial interests.]

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COVID-19: Infections Spike in Russia, Brazil, India as Lockdown Eases

Countries have eased lockdowns worldwide in order to restart their economies

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COVID-19 patients are treated inside a municipal field hospital Gilberto Novaes in Manaus, Brazil, that has become the world's third worst-hit county with more than 250,000 infections despite limited testing, May 18, 2020. VOA
Coronavirus cases are spiking from India to South Africa and Mexico in a clear indication the pandemic is far from over, while Russia and Brazil now sit behind only the United States in the number of reported infections, according to COVID-19 Information & Resources.

The surges come as much of Asia, Europe and scores of U.S. states have been easing lockdowns to restart their economies as new infections wane. U.S. autoworkers, French teachers and Thai mall workers are among hundreds of thousands of employees back at work with new safety precautions.

Russia reported a steady rise in new infections Tuesday, and new hot spots have emerged across the nation of about 147 million. Russia registered nearly 9,300 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000 infections, about half of them in Moscow. Authorities say over 2,800 people with COVID-19 have died in Russia, a figure some say is surely higher.

Some experts argue Russian authorities have been listing chronic illnesses as the cause of death for many who tested positive for the virus. Officials angrily deny manipulating statistics, saying Russia’s low death toll reflects early preventive measures and broad screening. Nearly 7.4 million tests have been conducted.

In Russia’s second-largest city of St. Petersburg, a virus hot spot, all burials now must be with closed coffins as a precaution, irrespective of the cause of death. Previously the measure applied only to COVID-19 deaths.

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Russia registered nearly 9,300 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to almost 300,000 infections, about half of them in Moscow. Pixabay

Russia’s caseload is second only to that of the U.S., which has seen 1.5 million infections and over 90,000 deaths. The country’s prime minister, Mikhail Mishustin, resumed work Tuesday after a bout of coronavirus.

Cases are still rising across Africa, where all 54 nations have seen confirmed infections for a total of over 88,000 cases and 2,800 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

South Africa has the highest number of cases at over 16,400 and nearly 290 deaths. Infections have increased dramatically in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province, which now accounts for 61% of South Africa’s total.

Latin America has seen more than 480,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 31,000 dead. The highest number of cases is in Brazil, which became the world’s third worst-hit county Monday with more than 250,000 infections despite limited testing. Hospital officials reported that more than 85% of intensive care beds are occupied in the states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Some countries have seen encouraging signs reverse: Iran reported a steady drop in new infections through April, only to see them rise again in May.

But there is new hope after an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus yielded encouraging results, though in a small and extremely early test. Stocks rallied Monday on the news.

In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus even though scientists say there is no evidence of its effectiveness against the disease and his own administration has warned it should be administered only in a hospital or research setting because of potentially fatal side effects.

face-mask brazil USA
In a surprise announcement, President Donald Trump said he has been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus even though scientists say there is no evidence of its effectiveness against the disease. Pixabay

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has declared that a partial economic shutdown imposed in late March helped slow the outbreak and prevented the nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed. A week ago, he ended the nationwide lockdown.

He has given Russia’s 85 regions a free hand to determine how they will ease their own lockdowns, but some have been struggling. The mostly Muslim southern province of Dagestan has reported a spike in infections that left its hospitals overflowing.

In India, coronavirus cases surged past 100,000, and infections are rising in the home states of migrant workers who fled cities and towns during a nationwide lockdown when they lost their jobs.
India is now seeing more than 4,000 new cases daily. States including West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Gujarat, the major contributors of India’s migrant labor, are showing major spikes in infections as the country’s lockdown rules have eased. More than 3,100 with COVID-19 have died, according to India’s Health Ministry.

And in densely populated Bangladesh, where authorities reported a record number of new positive tests at over 1,600, thousands of cars were on the streets of the capital, Dhaka, despite a lockdown. Authorities have relaxed some rules and allowed shops to open ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

In Latin America, intensive care units in the Chilean capital of Santiago have been beyond 90% capacity for days, and officials warned that intensive care staff members are reaching their limits.

“They can’t keep going forever, no matter how many beds or ventilators there are,” said Claudio Castillo, a professor of public policy and health at the University of Santiago.

Infections are also increasing in poor areas of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where authorities relaxed strict lockdown measures last week, allowing some businesses to open and children to walk outside on weekends.

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India’s migrant labor, are showing major spikes in infections as the country’s lockdown rules have eased. Pixabay

Colombia struggled with an outbreak in Leticia, a city on the border with Brazil, where hospitals were overwhelmed and patients were being sent to commandeered hotels. Colombia has recorded about 16,300 confirmed cases and close to 600 dead.

In Europe and in the United States, which has seen 36 million Americans file for unemployment, economic concerns dominated the political landscape.

Unemployment claims in Britain jumped 69% in April, the government reported Tuesday. European car sales collapsed by an unprecedented 76% last month.

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An experimental vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. triggered hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. They were found to have antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Much bigger studies on the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness are planned. Worldwide, about a dozen vaccine candidates are in or near the first stages of testing.

More than 4.8 million people worldwide have been infected and over 318,000 deaths have been recorded, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University that experts believe is too low for several reasons. (VOA)