By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, August 22, 2019: Odisha has deferred auction of mines scheduled to start on August 28 with technical bids opening on September 23 following assurance by the union mines ministry to take a decision on the state government’s proposal to hike area limit of iron ore lessees within two weeks.

“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”, a letter by the union mines ministry said.

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 auction process includes eight iron ore blocks and one each for manganese, graphite and limestone.

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 Centre’s directive was in line with Mineral Auction Rules of 2015, framed after the promulgation of the revised Mines and Minerals Development & Regulation (MMDR) Act on January 12, 2015.

The state government had pleaded that 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 for which increasing the area limit is required.

The Center, however turned down the state’s proposal, but at the same time, it asked the state mines department to come up with a fresh proposal for enhancement of iron ore lease area limit with due justification.

The state government 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.

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