19 June 2019: The state government’s repeated assertion that it has kept 36 mines ready for auction has raised questions about its sincerity as it has failed to put a single block under hammer in the last two and a half years.
As the lease period of 24 functional mines will expire by March 31, 2020, the Centre and the steel industries are pushing the state government to expedite the auction process.
The mining blocks in question are non-captive leases due to expire as per the provisions contained in the amended version of Mines and Minerals- Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act, 2015.
“The auction process was delayed till the latter half of 2019 because of the Lok Sabha elections. This could hinder the timely auction, as the process takes three to six months to complete,” sources in the mining industry said.
Even as the State Government is running against time to complete the process for auctioning the mining blocks whose lease period will lapse next year, sources in the Steel and Mines department said it is impossible to accomplish as geological reports of five mineral blocks are yet to prepared.
As countdown for the much-publicised auction of 36 mineral blocks has begun, geological report (GR) of 12 virgin blocks, which were explored by government agencies, have been completed.
These reports are being been scrutinised by SBI Capital Markets Ltd, the transaction advisor for e-auction.Of 24 merchant mines, reports of 19 blocks prepared by the leaseholders have been submitted.
The SBICAPs is reported to have returned five geological reports seeking further information on exploration and related matters, the sources said.
“Authenticity of the geological reports submitted by the existing leaseholders is very doubtful as there is very remote chance of those getting the same block under the e-auction process. Besides, the role of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) which has authenticated these reports is doubtful as the mega mining scam occurred in the State despite its monthly inspection of running mines,” sources preferred not to be identified said.
E-auction of Chandiposhi and Purheibahal iron ore blocks in Sundargarh district is facing legal hurdles with the Centre yet to take a call on the State Government’s application for extension of mining area limit for grant of lease.
The state has requested the Centre to raise the permissible limit from 10 sq km to 75 sq km purportedly to facilitate Tata Steel and State-run SAIL’s participation in the auctions.
“We are trying our best to start auction of mines from July as were are fully aware that the lease of these mines will lapse shortly,” Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick said.
The state has so far auctioned five mineral blocks including three iron ore, one manganese and one limestone.
- 24 functional mines’ lease period to expire by March 31, 2020.
- 12 virgin blocks’ geological report completed.
- 19 blocks of merchant mines prepared by lease holders.
- 5 geological reports returned by SBICAPs.