Legal and Regulatory huddles may delay mineral block auctions in Odisha


Bhubaneswar: While the Odisha Government is planning to auction about 17-18 mineral blocks by March 2019, it is likely to face several regulatory and legal huddles in the process. Court cases and inadequate bids have already delayed previously planned mineral block auctions, which will consume more time for further auction to be carried out.

After the introduction of Mineral Auction Rules 2015 under MMDR Act, State Government has already conducted successful auction of five mineral blocks during 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 in three phases. In the fourth phase, in order to fetch more resources, the State Government decided to go for auction of five mineral blocks in 2018-19 and accordingly process was kicked off. Those mineral blocks are Purei Bahal and Chandiposh Iron Ore Blocks in Sundargarh district, Behera-Bhanjipalli Lime Stone Block in Bargarh, Garramurrah Lime Stone Block in Nuapada and Uskalvagu Lime Stone Block in Malkangiri district. In case of Purei Bahal and Chandiposh Iron Ore Blocks, the process was going smooth and the State Government was to open the bids of the technically qualified bidders.

However, a case was filed in the High Court of Delhi, which has stalled the process and the authorities have kept the matter on hold as now the issue is subjudice.  While these five mineral blocks were facing delay for auction, the State Government had also taken up seven more mineral blocks for auction in the fifth phase of auction during 2018-19, admit officials.

But the State Government will have to wait for court verdict in this regard, admits an official in the Directorate of Mines. The case has been filed for barring those, who have already holding mineral leases more than permissible limit, said sources. Other three Lime Stone Blocks could not be auctioned due to inadequate bids and the auction process has been annulled. Investors showed little interest in the auction placed for three mineral blocks of limestone – Behera-Banjipalli, Garramurah and Uskalvagu – for auction. While Behera-Banjipali Block was having 4.36 million tonne reserve in Bargarh, Garramura Block has 3.88 million tonne reserve in Keonjhar and Uskalvagu block with 189.52 million tonne reserve is in Malkangiri district.

Except Uskalvagu which is at preliminary exploration level i.e G3, the remaining four blocks are at G2 level.  Only one bid for each of the blocks were received by the authorities and looking at the situation, they were forced to set these three lime stone blocks for auction once again in next round, officials admit. Meanwhile, the State Government has taken up steps to ensure completion of geological survey of 11 mineral blocks to put those ones for auction.

Once geological survey is completed then process for auction will be taken up by the authorities of the State administration, said sources. The State Government during 2018-19 is eyeing to auction 33 mineral blocks, and the Union Ministry of Mines is also pressing for it.

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