Big Merchant Miners eyeing on Odisha’s 9 Virgin Mining Blocks

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By Anurjay Dhal

BHUBANESWAR: After facing tough time to retain their running mines, those expiring by March 31, 2020, several leading merchant miners, who were rooted out in the last bidding of mining blocks under Joda-Koira-Rairangpur circles of Odisha’s mineral rich Keonjhar,Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts, have been eyeing on Virgin blocks, bidding for which will start soon, sources said on Wednesday.

The Odisha Government had earlier targeted to auction as many as 9 virgin mining blocks by end of February but with first week of March, no sign of auction, which worries most of the merchant miners, those who rooted out in the last bidding of expiring mines by March 31.

Sources said, after the completion of bidding of 19 running mines under Koira,Joda and Rairangpur mining circle of Odisha’s mineral rich Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts, the State’s Directorate of Mines was planning to to issue  Notice Inviting Tenders (NITs) for 9 Virgin Mining Blocks but it has been delayed, sources added.

Auctions of virgin mineral blocks are being delayed as the Naveen Patnaik led BJD Government first prioritised the offer of merchant mines whose lease validity ceases by March 31, 2020. Market experts feel these blocks may lose out to the lapsing merchant blocks where it will be easier to recommence mining and achieve seamless production and despatch.

State Steel and Mines Department officials however informed that these blocks will be offered for electronic auctions. “ We are working on it and we will initiate the process of auctioning the 9 virgin mineral blocks soon, we hope, we will start soon,” Deepak Mohanty, Odisha Director of Mines said.

The 9 Blocks included 7 Iron Ore, 1 exclusive Manganese,and 1 block with co-existence of Iron Ore and Manganese. The 7 Iron Ore Blocks listed are Purheibahal, Chandiposhi, Rengalaberha North East, Gandhalpada, Netrabandha Pahar (West), Dholtapahar and Jhumka Pathriposhi. Unchabali has mixed Iron Ore and Manganese reserves while Kalimati is the sole Manganese block, official sources said.

Sources said, several Big Merchant miners are eyeing for virgin blocks after they lost their running mines in the current bidding. Sources closely monitoring the development said that Jharkhand’s Chaibasa headquarters Rungta Mines Ltd Group, which lost half dozen of its running mines under Joda-Koira region, is alone eyeing on more than 5 to 6 blocks. After losing its running blocks, RML Group till has 2 major blocks, which has life of more than 15 years. Most of the mines deposits of Rungta Mines Ltd are at final stage and the Merchant miner is all set play its card during auction of virgin blocks.

Apart from RML Group, Essel Mining and Industries Ltd, a subsidiary of Aditya Birla Group, which dragged the Kolkata, based Shyam Ore Pvt Ltd to Supreme Court over the lease transfer of Jilling-Langalota Block also eyeing on several virgin blocks. Serajuddin &Co and others also eyeing on these virgin blocks.

Earlier, as many as 14 leading Companies including few Merchant miners are in race for the RP Sao held Guali Iron Ore Block in Odisha’s mineral rich Keonjhar district.The block, which earlier reserved for State PSU, OMECL, was put  for auction on Wednesday. Floor price is set for Guali block at 105 per cent.

Tata Steel’s subsidiary, TS Alloys bagged Sukinda Chrome Block in State’s Jajpur on Tuesday. TS Alloys won the mines by committing to pay 93.7 per cent of the average sale price to the Odisha government, said sources.

Several companies including Rungta, MSPL and Vedanta Limited were in the race to bag the Sukinda chrome mines located in Jajpur district, sources added.

This is the third lease bagged by the steelmaker.TS Alloys had got Saruabil chrome and Kamarda deposits in Odisha.The current leases come to an end on March 31, 2020 along with Sukinda chrome mine, which was with Tata Steel.

Guali mining lease area over 365.026 hectares and has  a reserve of 183 million tonne is located in five villages namely Guali, Panduliposi, Rugudihi, Laidapada and Topadihi in P.S/Tehsil Barbil and district Keonjhar.

Earlier, the State Government has reserved Tata Steel’s Sukinda chromite mine and RP Sao’s iron ore mine for OMECL and it had also written to the Centre for approval but the state’s decision was believed to have had stemmed from the recent ordinance by the Narendra Modi government and an unwillingness to delay the resumption of any working mine lapsing in less than three months.

Centre’s 10th January ordinance amending the Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act debarred Odisha to handover the mines to OMECL. The ordinance extends a seamless transfer of environment and other statutory clearances for a period of two years to the one emerging as the highest bidder.

Green clearances granted under the Forest (Conservation) Act and the Environmental Protection Act (and not under the MMDR Act) had until now been considered coterminus with a lease — a view that the Supreme Court had also upheld in the past. “The  ordinance however, makes no provision for a lease reserved for a state PSU despite the fact that the Centre was well aware of our decision to reserve these deposits,”

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