January 7, 2020

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Midas Touch in Mining

Midas Touch in Mining
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Deepak Mohanty, Director of Mines

The man who(Midas Touch in Mining) is the sine qua non for Odisha’s mining sector, the officer who spearheaded transparency, the government’s upright face who faced the grueling Shah Commission’s probe into illegal mining with equanimity- Deepak Mohanty’s( Midas Touch in Mining) service record is amply documented.

His(Midas Touch in Mining) penchant for perfection and unblemished work experience spanning over 35 years has catapulted him to the topmost echelons of the government’s trust in the corridors of power.

So immense is the faith of the powers that be that Mohanty has been getting recurring extensions even after his superannuation. Of late, he was rewarded with an extension of another three months to continue as the Director of Mines and special secretary, steel & mines department.

To separate Mohanty(Midas Touch in Mining) from mining reforms is unthinkable in Odisha. He has been at the vanguard of online auctions of mineral blocks in the state- blocks whose lease validity ceases by March 31, 2020.

Mohanty has laid the ground for the successful conduct of their auctions. True, the state government had to stumble upon hurdles en route to electronic auctions.

Odisha pioneered iron ore block auction in 2015-16 after the Modi government enunciated an amended version of the Mines and Minerals- Development & Regulation Act (MMDR) in January 2015.

The new Act stopped the age-old practice of discretionary award of mineral resources and introduced the process of competitive auctions. What ensued was the framing of Mineral Auction Rules 2015.

The preparedness of mineral-rich states was put to test. Under Mohanty’s able stewardship, Odisha earned the reputation of being the first state to auction an iron ore block. Later, two more iron ore deposits were put to auctions.

However, Odisha failed to sustain the momentum in auctions. In May 2018, Odisha’s efforts to auction two freehold or virgin blocks- Chandiposhi and Purheibahal met with legal resistance.

A case filed in the Delhi High Court over a contentious provision of the ceiling on mine lease area limits stalled the process of mineral auctions in Odisha for almost a year and a half.

Later, when the state government re-launched the auction activity in October 2019, it had to be annulled after bid submissions were done in respect of 10 merchant mine blocks. A fresh commencement was done on December 6 with all 20 lapsing merchant mines simultaneously offered for auctions. And, they have evoked a roaring response with 87 companies submitting over 250 bids.

Mohanty, an IFS officer has been the Midas touch in mining. He is the cynosure of all stakeholders. May the state government be blessed with his benign yet superlative presence and profit from his counsel.

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