Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Congress has opposed the State government’s move to auction mines bearing major minerals like iron ore, manganese, chromite, limestone and bauxite.

The Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president, Niranjan Patnaik has opposed the open auction of mines. Patnaik has urged the government to reserve the mines for State-owned PSUs.

The Congress chief, in a press statement issued here on Monday, has stated that the State government has lined up as many as 20 mines for auction before March 2020. Stating that these mines have developed by mine owners over a period of 50 years, Patnaik said it is not wise to hand over these identified mines with known reserve to new mine owner through auction. Rather these mines should be reserved for PSUs so as to provide raw material security to user industries.

The Congress president has suggested that the government should involve the private players in identifying new deposits and developing those mines.

As per the provisions of the MMDR Amendment Act 2015, the State government has invited financial and technical bids for grant of mining lease (ML) for 10 mines of iron ore and manganese blocks last week. Earlier, it had invited bids for 9 mines, mostly chromite, limestone and graphites.

Following the Central government’s approval to the revision in mining lease area limits for iron ore and associated minerals in Odisha to 58, up from 10 as prescribed in Section 6(1)(b) of the Mines & Minerals Development & Regulation Act.

Five out of the 10 enlisted blocks have been reserved for specified end use- Thakurani, Jaribahal, Roida-II, Narayanposhi and Ganua. Jilling-Langalota iron ore block under the leasehold of Essel Mining and Nuagaon and Ganua iron ore blocks under Ahluwalias are among the key expiring merchant blocks put up for auctions in this phase. The lease validity of all merchant mines ceases by March 31, 2020.

Since the state government has already decided to include secondary steel plants as specified end use, online auctions of iron ore are expected to elicit intense bidding. The deadline for purchase of tender documents is November 15. Bidders can submit their bids up to November 18, a notification by Odisha’s steel & mines department said.

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