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E-auction of minerals to be discussed at CEC meet tomorrow

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OST Bureau

Bhubaneswar, Jan 8:

While the sword of Justice MB Shah Commission report hanging over its head, the Odisha government will deliberate the e-auction of minerals at the quarterly meeting of the Coordination-cum-Empowered Committee (CEC) on Mineral Development and Regulation at New Delhi on Thursday.

The meeting, to be chaired by Union Mines secretary, will deliberate on the issue of under-reporting of sale price of minerals, which was discussed in the last meeting of the CEC, said sources of steel and mines department.

After the Shah Commission started its inquiry into the mining scam in the state, the government, planned to introduce e-auction mode of selling bulk minerals like iron ore, manganese and chrome as a fire fighting measure.

The government, which is following the model of Karnataka, had decided to go for e-auction of bulk minerals for non-captive use. However, it was awaiting the nod of Supreme Court monitored CEC to avoid any legal battle as the miners can challenge the decision of the government.

“The Ministry is of the view that e-auction of extracted minerals has the advantages of transparency, optimum price-discovery and realization of correct royalty to the states. The matter is to be considered by the CEC. The process of establishing the e-auction procedure for sale of the extracted minerals is also to be deliberated,” said the agenda of the meeting.

The meeting will also discuss the Odisha government’s suggestion that Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) should not factor in the reported prices which are lower than 20% of the average price.

It is to be noted that the huge disparity in prices of iron ore lumps and fines in the state compared to the all-India average and that of neighbouring Chhattisgarh has prompted the steel & mines department to seek the intervention of the Controller General of Mines, IBM. The gross under-reporting of prices of different grades of iron ore by some unscrupulous miners in Odisha is resulting in revenue loss to the state exchequer.

The Shah Commission, in its five volume submitted report to the Mines Ministry, has also recommended auction of all future iron ore leases in Odisha, a cap on current output and sale through e-auctions.

The state government has decided to engage Kolkata-based MSTC Ltd, a central government-owned company, to implement the e-auction service in the state.

All users of e-auction platform will have to register with the MSTC website either as buyer or seller. Registration of buyers and sellers will be a continuous process. Users from the Odisha government will be provided with a master password by MSTC for monitoring purpose.