HC stays Cabinet decision on mine auctions till Feb 4 hearing

Cuttack: Odisha High Court today stayed the State Cabinet decision to auction all the mines in the state except the collieries.

The stay came on a petition filed by Odisha Manganese and Minerals Limited, Khatua Narveram, Nesco, Aryan Mines & Trading Co and Kalinga Mines.

On January 5, the State government had decided to put all new non-coal mines and those pending for second and subsequent renewals to public auction through competitive bidding process.

The decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting presided by chief minister Naveen Patnaik. “This is a historic decision to bring transparency in allocation of natural resources by putting an end to the hitherto monopoly system,” Patnaik had said after the meeting.

Describing the decision as a concrete step forward for “progressive economic reforms”, the chief minister had said the State would gain substantially in revenue generation. “Odisha is a pioneering state to take such progressive and pro-people decision in the mining sector,” he claimed.

Chief secretary G.C. Pati later told reporters that all other lessees of major minerals awaiting second and subsequent renewals would be put up for public auction along with virgin areas, determined and lapsed leases.

However, public auction route would not be applicable in five cases like those leases which have already been issued grant orders and were awaiting execution of lease deed by the state government after being approved by the Centre on the State’s recommendations, Pati had said.

According to the decision, those mining leases which were awaiting the approval of the first renewal will also not be for the public auction and the mines lease that have already been granted express order for renewal will not be placed for the auction.

This apart, mine leases granted to state or central PSUs would also not be put for public auction, Pati had said, adding other applications for which the state had already recommended for the prospecting license or mining lease to the Centre, would not be in the list of mines for public auction.

To a question, Mines director Deepak Mohanty had said the State has already 18 iron-ore and manganese mines seeking second and subsequent renewals in hand ready to be put for public auction.

“We expect annual revenue of about Rs 10,000 crore through auction route which is almost double the amount of the revenue being presently generated from mining sector in the State,” the chief secretary had said.

He had claimed that the decision was in conformity to pronouncements of the Supreme Court and would help in maximizing revenues besides bringing transparency in the allocation/assignment of mineral resources.

On the objectives of the Cabinet’s decision, Pati had said besides generating more revenue for the State, the new policy would help create more jobs for the youths, attract investment for large, medium and small mineral-based industries and facilitate ancillary and downstream industries.

The Cabinet also decided to approve the policy for transparent allocation of all major mineral concessions through public auction, he had said.

“All pending applications for grant/renewal of major mineral leases will also be disposed in conformity to this policy decision. Leasing of major minerals through public auction will be made after obtaining leave of the Supreme Court by filing appropriate petitions,” Pati had said adding the State government would prepare modalities of the public auction within two months.