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Firms raise mining concerns

- State fails to come up with clear plan to break deadlock

Ranchi, Dec. 12: A group of investors today did some plain speaking to express their unhappiness at the tardy progress of mining projects in Jharkhand, even as senior bureaucrats appeared clueless about addressing concerns over the state’s lack of vision in facilitating growth.

The investors underlined several problems — delay in granting prospecting licences, mining leases, environment clearances, land acquisition — which had put the sector in a quandary.

Tony Harding, the head (exploration) of Rio Tinto (India), said the Australian mining giant had been waiting for permission to explore diamond in Jharkhand since 2005, but to no avail.

Harding was speaking on the theme of “challenges and opportunities” during Jharkhand Mining Conclave, organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) at a Ranchi hotel.

“We had applied to the Jharkhand government for exploration rights way back in 2005. Things are still pending. Maybe, we are in the queue,” he said.

Amritanshu Prasad, the executive director of Adhunik group that is into power, mining and steel making in Jharkhand, tried not to be too harsh in the presence of senior state government officials, including principal secretary (mines and geology) D.K. Tiwari.

However, he termed Left-wing extremism, land acquisition and absence of a single-window policy as major impediments.

Prasad rued that the company had not been given any dedicated iron ore mine for its steel plant in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, even thought the group was pumping in huge funds in the power and steel sectors.

Sources said it was not though the state hasn’t allocated mines to any other group. So far, mines have been allocated to over 20 prospective investors, including ArcelorMittal, Jindal Steel and Power Limited, Tata Steel, JSW, among others.

Public sector undertakings also raised similar concerns.

R.K. Chopra, director of the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) — a Coal India Limited subsidiary, revealed that exploration had been abandoned at several places for want of statutory clearances.

Principal secretary Tiwari did try to come up with explanations, but investors weren’t convinced. He admitted that even senior bureaucrats were “afraid of taking decisions” in the present climate of scams and probes.

“Things need to change for development of the mining sector,” he said.