Even 29 yrs after grant of lease, JKML fails to start scientific exploration of sapphire mines

Official says waiting for political dispensation to proceed further
Exercise to complete global tendering process put on hold

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Sept 10: In a testimony of absolute sluggishness, Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited has failed to start scientific exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines in Paddar area of Kishtwar district even 29 years after the grant of lease in its favour by the State Government. Moreover, an exercise to complete global tendering process, which was set into motion about five years back, has been put on hold without any justifiable reason.
As per the official document available with EXCELSIOR, mining lease in respect of sapphire deposits in Sumcham area of Paddar in Kishtwar district was granted in the favour of Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited vide Government Order No.18-Ind dated January 20, 1989 in terms of Sub-Rule 3 of Rule 24 (A) of Mineral Concession Rules, 1960.
However, Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited failed to initiate any step for scientific exploration of sapphire mines and focused only on collection of rough sapphire from the screening of mine spoil and digging of trenches and then putting the small collection to auction. This exercise generated only meagre resources for the Minerals Limited, which comes under the administrative control of Industries and Commerce Department.
The period of lease granted in 1989 expired in January 2009 but the same was not extended for eight and half years for unknown reasons as a result of which J&K Minerals Limited paid no serious attention towards the sapphire mines, official sources said.
It was only in 2016 that Government vide Order No.128-Ind dated June 22, 2016 renewed the lease for a period of 25 years but with retrospective effect from January 20, 2009 when the period of earlier lease had expired.
It was specifically mentioned in the Government order about renewal of lease that J&K Minerals Limited (JKML) will got Mining Plan approved from the competent authority within a period of two years in the first instance before exploitation of deposits. The Minerals Limited was further told to obtain environment clearance and all other NOCs/NDCs as required under rules before exploitation of the deposits.
However, even 29 years after the grant of lease J&K Minerals Limited has failed to come up to the expectations of the Government because of varied reasons as a result of which exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines on the scientific lines has remained a dream till date, sources said.
This can be gauged from the fact that exercise to complete the global tendering process initiated in 2013 has not been completed till date. This is notwithstanding the fact there was good response to the Expression of Interest and after a long drawn exercise Request for Formal Proposal (RFP) was received from two shortlisted parties well within the fixed timeframe, sources said.
The Board of Directors of J&K Minerals Limited in its meeting held on December 4, 2017 had discussed the technical evaluation report submitted by the Transaction Advisor vis-a-vis these two companies and desired that the report be submitted to Technical Scrutiny Committee for further analysis so that the matter is placed before the Board of Directors for further discussion and appropriate decision before referring the same to State Cabinet for consideration and approval.
“However, there is no further development till date as a result of which global tendering process has remained incomplete despite lapse of five years”, sources said while disclosing that entire process has been put on hold without any plausible reason.
When contacted, an officer of J&K Minerals Limited, on the condition of anonymity, said, “we have received instructions from top level about not going ahead with the exercise and keeping the matter as it is as on date”.
“There is an opinion that final decision on the global tender should be allowed to be taken by the political dispensation whenever it is formed in the State and at present status quo should be maintained”, he said, adding “this opinion has been framed keeping in view the ongoing controversy over Article 35-A and the fact that outside companies will have to be allowed for scientific exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines”.
However, sources dubbed the opinion as unfounded and illogical. “It seems that somebody is trying to scuttle the global tendering process otherwise Governor’s Administration is competent enough to take final call on the issue”, they added.