Nine mineral-rich states -- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana -- are readying 75 blocks for auction.
As many as 222 mineral blocks are in the pipeline for auctions in 2017-18. While all these blocks could be potentially auctioned, the actual number of blocks to go under the hammer would depend on the status of their exploration and readiness of the respective state governments.
The blocks are being explored by Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Mineral Exploration Corporation of India (MECL). Nine mineral-rich states -- Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Telangana -- are readying 75 blocks for auction.
Of the 222 blocks, Karnataka tops the list with 57, followed by Odisha (46) and Jharkhand (39).
This apart, there are 100 lapsed mineral applications under Section 10 (A) (2) (c) of the amended Mines and Minerals Development & Regulation Act (MMDR), 2015.
These leases refer to the cases where mining leases could not be executed within the stipulated deadline of January 11, 2017, due to lack of clearances from the forest and environment ministry and also because of non-settlement of forest rights.
In addition, there are 83 more lapsed applications where the leaseholders have gone to courts and such blocks may also be made available for auctions.
The Union mines ministry has asked the state governments to expedite the process of taking over of the lease areas of the applicants. The ministry also enquired about the action plan of various governments for exploration of areas under mining leases, which would expire in March 2020.
The emphasis is on the importance of accelerating pace of exploration, especially in mines producing iron ore in Odisha, where iron ore production may reduce significantly resulting in a mineral crisis after expiry of such leases in 2020.
The state governments were also advised to encourage the leases of these mines and to take up detailed exploration.
It was suggested that meetings would be held with each individual state government to develop action plans for such mines at the earliest.
According to Indian Bureau of Mines, there are 240 such leases of which barely 50 are operational, where the leases are due to expire in March 2020. The resources in such leases have already been identified.
IBM has also evaluated and submitted a report to the Union mines ministry on resources that would be exploited till March 2020.
Image: Iron ore miners in Karnataka. Image: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters.