The Supreme Court Tuesday approved the central government’s plan to float global tenders to revive the famous Kolar gold mines, 12 years after they were closed down. A bench led by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir recorded a 2006 cabinet decision to invite bids to run the mines, and to take appropriate subsequent steps.
The Kolar Gold Fields (KGF), which were nationalised in 1956 and handed over to state-run Bharat Gold Mines Ltd. (BGML), were shut down in 2001 after its operations turned uneconomical at lower price levels.
A legal long haul began after BGML employees and others went to court against the closure. In 2009, a single judge bench of Karnataka High Court permitted the government to seek out “only global miners” to revive the mines. However, in August 2010, a division bench of the court directed that no global tenders should be floated, and asked the Centre to explore all possibilities to revive KGF on its own.
The matter travelled to the Supreme Court, where Centre said that it supported the closure of the mines, and that the cabinet had taken a decision to float a global tender. The court admitted the petition in April 2011 and sought replies from other parties, including the BGML workers’ co-operative.
On Tuesday, the court observed that no particular orders were required to be passed in the matter in view of the Centre’s categorical stand on the global tender. Disposing of the batch of petitions, the court asked the government to indicate in its tender that the lease had been granted to BGML, which had, in turn, sub-leased 1,109 acres out of the total 12,095 acres to Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. The sub-lease ends in April 2014.
India, the world’s leading consumer of gold, has 9 per cent of global reserves of the metal, estimated at 14,000 tonnes, but has largely failed to exploit this wealth because of policy handicaps and a lack of adequate investments and enabling environment for exploration and mining.
The Kolar mines are one of the world’s deepest.