The Union mines ministry may take a call on Odisha’s plea to increase the area limit of iron ore mining leases (ML) nearly six fold in next two weeks. Till that time, Odisha has decided to postpone the auction of mines, the process for which was to set off this month.
“We have decided to postpone auction of mines on the request of the Centre. In our discussion with the officials of the Union mines ministry, they have assured us to take a decision on our proposal to hike area limit of iron ore lessees in next 10 to 12 days”, said a state official.
“We will wait till that time before deciding on the next course of action”, he added.
The Centre had last week requested the Odisha government to put off the mining auction process as a proposal from the state to relax the area limit of iron ore ML is under active consideration of the Union mines ministry.
“The proposal of the state government of Odisha for increasing the area limit for mining leases of iron ore and associated minerals under Section 6 (1) (b) of the MMDR (Mines & Minerals Development and Regulation) Act is under examination of the ministry. Therefore, it is requested that the state government may initiate any auction process after the decision in this regard is conveyed to the state”, read the letter.
Earlier, the Union mines ministry had turned down a proposal of the Odisha government to increase the area limit of mining lease for iron ore from 10 sq Km as prescribed under Section 6 (1) of the MMDR Act to 75 sq Km. The state had pointed out SAIL, Tata Steel, JSPL and JSW have plans to install and expand steel capacities in the state for which they needed assured supply of iron ore. Hence, increasing the area limit is in the interest of development of steel industry, it argued.
However, while turning down the state’s proposal, the Centre had asked the state mines department to come up with a fresh proposal for enhancement of iron ore lease area limit with due justification.
Accordingly, the state has sent a fresh proposal seeking increase of area limit for iron ore mining lease to at least 58 sq Km on the basis of the argument that denial of this relaxation will hurt Central PSUs like SAIL which already has mining and exploration rights to this extent.
An annexure to the state’s proposal further said, the provision of increase in area limit has been exercised by the Central government in cases like Bauxite in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, lime stone in states like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Chhatishgarh, iron ore in states of Chhatishgarh and Jharkhand. The area limit of ML for Jharkhand has been increased to 75 sq Km and for Chhatishgarh to 50 sq Km, the letter said to support the argument for area limit hike.
A high level committee of the state government had decided to issue the Notice Inviting Tenders (NITs) for auctions of 11 more virgin blocks on August 16. The proposed roster includes eight iron ore blocks and one each for manganese, graphite and limestone.