It may take 2-3 months to start mining in Karnataka

Written by Ajay Sukumaran | Updated: Apr 25 2012, 09:14am hrs
The Supreme Court last week partially lifted the mining ban in Karnataka to allow iron-ore mines with the least amount of irregularities (category A) and with a size of more than 50 hectares each to resume mining operations provided they get clearances for reclamation and rehabilitation (R&R) plans. The mining industry estimates that this would make available at least 5 million tonne of ore. Basant Poddar, chairman of the southern region of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI), tells Ajay Sukumaran that the industry body has begun the process of detailing all the mines in the state and that it expects to complete the R&R plans for 49 mines covering more than 50 hectares each by mid-June.

What is the status of the R&R plans being prepared for Category A mines which will now be allowed to restart operations

The detailing work has already started. A team comprising members of FIMI's Sustainable Mining Initiative wing has already visited about 15-20 mines in Chitradurga, Tumkur and Bellary/Hospet region in the last one month and they expect to work at the rate of about 30 mines a month. FIMI is also setting up a new office for this at Hospet by month-end. We will send the R&R plans to the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) for approval. They will make site visits and it will then be forwarded to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) with their recommendations. Several reports have already gone to ICFRE and some are on their way.

How soon will this be completed, and by when do you expect mining to resume

My estimate is that it can take anywhere from 15 days to 2-3 months for mining to start. FIMI has given a commitment to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) that it will complete detailing of 49 mines in category A and B by June 15. All the documentation is being prepared and it needs a lot of support from the mining industry and the Indian Bureau of Mines.

In about 5-6 months they should complete detailing the mines in all the categories A,B and C.

What does the R&R model entail

It is based on the reserves of the mines, proven reserves, the dump capacity and dump slopes, internal roads, external roads, etc. These are primarily the guidelines which have been given to FIMI, that is working within this ambit.

So, I think what will come out now will be a proper, sustainable and scientific document.

Will it also mean that mining companies will now spend more on upkeep of mines

I think so. Most of the mines will have to do that. Some mines have already been doing that. To answer your question plainly, yes, people will have to do much more now than before.

The ore that had been produced prior to the mining ban is being sold through electronic auctions. What is the quantity

For auction dated April 11, the total quantity was nearly 20 mt, out of which 3.5 mt was NMDC's cargo. So, 16.5 mt was other cargo. We had estimated a total of 27 mt so a balance of about 8-8.5 mt is still available in the mines. This can keep the steel industry going for another 4-5 months.