Centre considering Odisha plea for Khandadhar mines to Posco

Reported by Chinmaya Dehury

Bhubaneswar, Aug 27:

Steel and Mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar today said the Central government is actively considering the recommendation of the Odisha government for granting mining lease  for Khandadhara iron ore mines in Sundargarh district to South Korean steel maker Posco, which plans to set up a 12 million tonne integrated steel plant near the port town of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

Photo: Biswaranjan Mishra
Photo: Biswaranjan Mishra

The minister, however, said it would take time as some issues need to be resolved since the government is trying to maintain transparency in the mining sector.

“We have discussed the Posco issue, including grant of ML for Khandadhara mines, with the chief minister today. However, there are some issues that need to be resolved. There is a case is pending in court. Besides, the place has both notified and non-notified areas, which will have to be relooked,” said the minister at a press conference here.

It is to be noted that the state government has told the Union mines ministry that it is unable to demarcate the boundaries of the Khandadhar iron ore mines sought by the company for its raw material security. The state has not distinguished between notified areas and non-notified areas for grant of the prospecting licence.

The minister informed that the union government is in consultation with the state governments for amendment in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957.

“We will take the views of the states before going ahead with any reform in the mining sector,” Tomar.

The minister urged the states to come together to evolve a transparent and efficient system of allocation of leases along with a robust regulatory framework that best serves India’s interest.

The amendment would enable the states to examine the applications for grant of lease in non-notified areas.

Under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957, the government notifies iron ore-bearing areas as mines which can be exploited for commercial use, while non-notified areas are those which require several regulatory approvals before being allowed to be explored.

Tomar informed that the chief minister urged to expedite the acquisition of Neelachal Ispat Nigam Ltd (NINL) by Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL). “The chief minster urged that SAIL should take over NINL. We are positive on the issue and would consider the matter actively,” said the minister.

Mines secretary Anup Kumar Pujari said the state government and the Centre would together decide what would be the share of SAIL in NINL..

State-owned steel maker SAIL has evinced interest in acquiring majority stake in NINL with plans to raise NINL’s capacity 5-fold from nearly one million tonnes per annum (MTPA).

NINL, a company jointly promoted by MMTC and Industrial Promotion and Investment Corporation of Odisha Ltd, has a pig iron manufacturing facility in Odisha. MMTC is under the administrative control of the commerce ministry.

Stating that the chief minister had assured to clear the pending issues of NALCO, SAIL and OMDC for mining lease renewal, Tomar said the government had also assured to accord approval to 26 mines, out of which eight closed down after Supreme Court order have already opened.

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