Home Secy headed panel recommends suspension of process initiated in 2013

Scientific exploration, exploitation of sapphire mines in Paddar

MECL approached to work out quantum of reserves

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Mar 7: The much talked about exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines in Paddar area of Kishtwar district is unlikely to become a reality in near future as a high-level committee has recommended suspension of the entire process which was initiated way back in 2013 with the floating of global tenders. Moreover, it has suggested assessing of exact quantum of reserves before initiating any fresh exercise.
Official sources in Civil Secretariat told EXCELSIOR that an exercise for scientific exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines in Sumcham area of Paddar in Kishtwar district was initiated in the year 2013 with the floating of global tenders by the Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited on the directions of the then State Government.
A number of companies participated in the global tenders but no further step could be initiated in a time bound manner as all of a sudden the Industries and Commerce Department felt the necessity of engaging Transaction Advisor for technical evaluation of the bids.
This led to delay in proceeding further with the global tender exercise and it was only in December 2017 that the Board of Directors of J&K Minerals Limited discussed the technical evaluation report submitted by the Transaction Advisor vis-a-vis two companies. Accordingly, the Board desired that the report be submitted to the Technical Scrutiny Committee for further analysis so that matter is placed before the Board of Directors afresh before referring the same to the State Cabinet for consideration and approval.
Following imposition of Governor’s Rule in the State, Government vide Order No.1552-GAD dated October 16, 2018 constituted a Group of Officers headed by Administrative Secretary, Home Department to examine the process followed since inception for the selection of M/s Mineworks Pvt Ltd, New Delh for exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines in Joint Venture with J&K Minerals Limited.
The Group of Officers comprising of Administrative Secretaries of Finance, Planning, Development and Monitoring, Industries and Commerce and Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs was also asked to examine the relevant mining laws and rules and make recommendations based on the critical assessment.
“The Group of Officers in the report submitted to the Government has recommended suspension of entire exercise conducted since 2013 on various grounds”, sources informed, adding “the Group doesn’t subscribe view-points recorded in the file from time to time on various vital aspects”.
They further said, “the Group of Officers has raised several questions vis-a-vis the process followed since inception for the selection of M/s Mineworks Pvt Ltd and has justified its recommendation of suspending the entire exercise on various technical grounds”, adding “it has mentioned that since Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Exploitation and Processing Rules came into force only in 2017 going ahead with the process initiated prior to 2017 would be highly unjustified”.
It is pertinent to mention here that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 15 and Section 23C of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 the State Government vide SRO 302 dated July 19, 2017 made the Rules.
The Group of Officers has also noted with serious concern that no serious effort was made to analyze exact quantum of reserves. “Unless exact reserve is ascertained floating global tenders would not serve the purpose”, sources said quoting the observations made by the officers.
As desired by the Group of Officers the Director Geology and Mining has formally approached the Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL), an autonomous Public Sector Company under the administrative control of Union Ministry of Mines, to work out quantum of reserves in sapphire mines, they further said, adding “unless this primary exercise is conducted the Government is unlikely to start afresh the tendering process”.
It is worthwhile to mention here that mining lease in respect of sapphire deposits in Sumcham area of Paddar 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.
Till date the focus is 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 has generated meagre resources for the Minerals Limited so far.