India's recent push to stamp out corruption has been laudable -- especially in the country's all-important mining sector.
And news this week suggests the clean-up effort is intensifying, once again signaling major changes underway in the minerals sector here.
India's key mining state Rajasthan said late Saturday it is taking unprecedented action against its corrupt mining agency; by cancelling the majority of minerals licenses issued by this authority. Related: Oil Prices Still Not Low Enough To Fix The Markets
The state government said it will nullify 601 out of 653 licenses issued by the mining agency. Representing a full 90 percent of the tenements granted in recent years.
That comes after the agency's Secretary, Ashok Singhvi, was arrested last month following an undercover investigation, which found that he and his aides accepted bribes in return for expediting and prioritizing mining applications. Related: Is Oil Trending? How Twitter Influences Oil Price Volatility
The move by the state government is a strong one: stripping assets from some of the most powerful business people in India, some of which have been held for years already.
But the government seems intent on sending a message. An escalation from past policy -- where "anti-corruption" drives were often just wallpaper intended to give the impression of good governance but not effectively changing much. Related: Downturn Hits Bottom But High Oil Storage Could Delay Recovery
This is yet another sign that the "new India" under Prime Minister Modi is serious about reforming rampant corruption, a fact that should be encouraging for all natural resource project developers.
States like Rajasthan hold immense potential for exploration and development. Gold, platinum, copper and zinc showings are abundant here -- and the level of modern exploration is exceedingly low.
If moves like this week's licensing clean-up improve permitting, this could be one of the next big rushes in exploration. It's going to take time to sort things out, but the time is ripe to start desk studying on this could-be hotspot.
Here's to cancelling contention,
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