By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, October 3, 2019: Odisha on Friday will begin inviting bids for 20 iron ore and manganese mines.

The lease period of 24 working mines in the state will end in March 2020. Of these, the state has decided to auction 12 iron ore, two manganese and six iron and manganese (associate minerals that co-occur) mines in two lots, beginning Friday, officials said adding that five of the leases have been reserved for manufacturers of steel and steel intermediaries.

Earlier the state government had invited bids for two chromite mines and decided to reserve Tata Steel’s Sukinda chromite mine for state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation.

Similarly, the Guali iron ore mine, with an estimated resource of 198.74 million tonnes has been reserved for another state-owned company, the officials said.

In fact, the mine auctions have been delayed by a year with the state government seeking hike in the area cap that disqualified Tata Steel from participating in iron ore auctions.

The state government only recently has gone on fast track of the auctions process after getting the go-ahead from the Union mines ministry on hiking mining lease area cap to 58 square kilometres (sq km), up from 10 sq km prescribed in Mines and Minerals- Development & Regulation (MMDR) Act.

Prior to this, auctions of iron ore and other mineral virtually came to a standstill. Not a single mineral block could be auctioned in the state in FY19 as the matter related to mine lease area ceiling got enmeshed in litigation. The Delhi High Court had stalled auctions until clarity emerged on the eligibility for acquiring an additional mine by a lessee who already held in excess of 10 sq km.

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