New rules for mineral block auctions by November-end

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New rules for mineral block auctions by November-end
Representational Image Courtesy : The Financial Express

Kolkata : The Centre is expected to amend rules for mineral block auctions by November-end and is hoping to bid out Rs 1 lakh crore worth of minerals for the current fiscal, an official said.

The industry felt the eligibility criteria in terms of the minimum net worth for participating in the e-auctions was very high, "creating certain difficulties", Mines Secretary Arun Kumar said.

The new provisions could make the auction process "easier and attractive".Kumar was speaking here on the sidelines of the golden jubilee celebration of Hindustan Copper Ltd.

"We are certainly hoping that we will easily cross Rs one lakh crore figure for the current year," he said on Thursday."We have been able to auction out Rs 1.80 lakh crore worth of minerals for 33 mines during the last two years. 

"We would like the progress to pick up. We have auctioned out about Rs 50,000 crore worth of minerals for 12 mines in this financial year so far," Kumar said. 

In order to address certain issues in the auction rules, "we have brought draft auction rules and had discussions. Now the matter is in the Ministry of Mines and it will go to Ministry of Law. When they clear it, we hope to bring the changes.

"If it is brought by end of November, the Ministry expects in the balance four months of the current fiscal, we will touch another Rs 50,000 crore worth of minerals (to be auctioned). 

"This is a conservative estimate. This could involve the auction of another 14-15 mines," Kumar said. These could include minerals like limestone, iron ore, emerald, molybdenum and etc.

Speaking on the possible amendments that could be brought, he said the industry felt the eligibility criteria in terms of minimum net worth for participating in the e-auctions were very high.

"After consultation with stakeholders, it is proposing to be reduced. This is one and some more relaxations to speed up the matters were also thought of. We are leaving it to the states," Kumar said.

There was an issue related to the clarity of upfront payments which the successful bidders pay and now it is thought that the upfront payments would get adjusted at the moment of commencement of productions, he said. 

He said some relaxation could be made in terms of "end use conditions" that the states can put.

When asked whether there could be a situation where the successful bidders could sit on it without doing anything" after winning the block in auctions, he said, "We have also realised that may happen."

The Ministry would like to propose "a check" in order to avoid this kind of situations, he said, adding that blocks should not be kept idle and lease registration and operations should begin in three years time. 

The time frame can be extended for another two years in cases "beyond control".He also said these are being discussed with the states and they "held back" the auctions for October in anticipation of a better system that is coming.

"So, there would a pent-up demand," he added.