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NMDC sees opportunity in Karnataka

It is reported that public sector miner NMDC Limited has got an unforeseen domestic opportunity, especially in Karnataka, in the light of the final report on illegal iron ore mining submitted by the Central Empowered Committee to the Supreme Court early this month.

The CEC has classified the over 150 mines in Karnataka, where iron ore production had been stopped on the directives of the apex court, into three categories, of these, close to 50 mines categorized under class C for alleged gross violations have been recommended for cancellation. The CEC has recommended resumption of operations under 45 mining leases in category A while suggesting a reclamation and rehabilitation program for 72 mines that fall under class B.

Mr N K Nanda CMD of NMDC said that “We could see some opportunity in class C mines where the mining leases are expected to be cancelled. I have asked someone to find out what are these mines, how spread out they are and size and so on. Though there is no clarity in the report as to what should be the way forward in case of mining leases facing cancellation, the Supreme Court may take a call in this regard after it resumes hearing in this case on March 2. NMDC is pinning hopes on one of the possibilities in which the court may entrust the operations of such mines to it.”

Mr Nanda said that “The Supreme Court needs to give directions as to what will happen to these mines that are going to be closed. Then the matter will go to the mines ministry for further directions. Lease allotments will be made by state governments; meaning, these mines will be delisted and again notified. Or the Supreme Court may give directions that NMDC should operate these mines or ask us to revive the mines in a scientific manner. Then we will have a role. But all this is a wild guess.” Otherwise, the granting of fresh leases will take a natural course of law because no one can take a lease and give it to someone else just like that, he said. However, Nanda added that they would be interested only in mines with reserves ranging from 50 million tonnes and above.

All these class C mines are all located in Bellary and Chitradurga regions in Karnataka. If they are small areas then they are not of much use for the company in term of operational viability. Usually, NMDC operated mines are as big as 600 hectares each. He said that “A mine with a reserve of 100 million tonnes is good for us. That is why we have always been asking the Government of India that it should give us mines having at least 100 million tonne reserves.”

NMDC produces 70% of its annual capacity of about 32 million tonnes of iron ore from Bailadilla cluster in Chhattisgarh and the remaining comes from its mines in Karnataka.

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