By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, December 9, 2020: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday called for further opening up the mineral sector to ensure uninterrupted supply of ore to the industries, safeguarding employment and state revenue.

Addressing a virtual session, Patnaik maintained that Odisha has been one of the first states to successfully conduct the auction of mineral blocks in accordance with the Supreme Court directives. Union Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi, and Petroleum and Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were present in the session, besides several senior officials.

“However, there have been some glitches in the commencement of mining operations, leading to disruptions in production and dispatch, causing a shortage of minerals for end-user industries and price rise,” he pointed out.

Patnaik said that such disruptions and uncertainties in production and dispatch are undesirable, especially during these times.

Shortages of ore and resultant high prices have posed a challenge for the sponge iron plants, and small and medium- size steel plants, he said adding that this has affected the revenue of the state and the employment of the people dependent on the sector. The Public Sector Undertakings can play an important role in maintaining the level of supply of ore to the end-user industries at such critical moments, Patnaik asserted.

“Their strong presence in the Mineral market will ensure smooth supply at reasonable prices. This shall go a long way in mitigating the constraints faced by the MSME in this sector,” the chief minister said.

Patnaik proposed reservation of some of the expired working mineral blocks under provisions of section 17A of the MMDR Act to state PSUs like Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) to ensure uninterrupted supply of ore to the end-user industry.

He said Odisha supports further mineral sector reforms and streamlining of procedures, which will go a long way in unlocking the mineral resources of the country and give a boost to the economy.

Noting that one of the longstanding demand of Odisha and other states has been the revision of royalty for minerals other than coal, Patnaik stated that it has been pending since 2017.

“Similarly, royalty on coal has been due since September 2017. Though the Clean Energy Cess has undergone multiple enhancements, there has been no accrual to the state,” he said, urging the Centre to take early action in this regard.

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