States seem to be in no hurry to prepare action plans for the auction of mineral blocks whose lease will expire in 2020. This is despite a letter by the Centre exhorting states to start the auction of such mineral leases by July 1, 2019, to give prospective miners ample time to make the mines functional.
“Though the leases expire on March 31, 2020, it would be appropriate for the states to start auctions of the mines by July 1, 2019. This will give the successful bidders the time to mobilise as well as time to obtain various clearances before commencing mining operations,” Union Mines Secretary Arun Kumar said in a letter, dated November 24, to the chief secretaries of mineral-rich states. “It is, therefore, of utmost importance that an action plan for auctioning these expiring leases is prepared at the earliest,” Kumar further said, while seeking the submission of action plans within a fortnight. So far, only Andhra Pradesh has submitted its plan.
The data collated by the Union mines ministry shows 288 leases of iron ore, chromite, limestone, manganese, bauxite, graphite, limestone, garnet, and kyanite are due to lapse by March 31, 2020. Goa has the maximum number of mines (160) headed for expiry, followed by Karnataka (45) and Odisha (30). Of the 288 mines, 59 are in working condition, and the balance are non-working leases. Of the 160 mines in Goa, 159 are iron ore leases, and one is a manganese mine.
In Odisha, 17 merchant iron ore leases are set to expire by March 2020. The ending validity of these mines is set to trigger a deficit of 66 million tonnes (mt) of iron ore annually. If other states like Karnataka, Goa, and Jharkhand are factored in, the total loss in iron ore production capacity could be 85 mt a year, said an industry source.