In phase I, the 12 mineral-producing states have identified 80-90 blocks that will go under the hammer by November. This was made possible after the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, was passed in March this year, which stipulates auction as the only means to allow extraction of iron ore and other minerals.
    
"The Centre in consultation with the states has decided to hand-hold the mineral-bearing states to conduct the mines auction, latest by November this year for 80-90 mines. This will be phase I. The Centre will auction the blocks on behalf of the states,” Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar said.
    
Of the mineral-bearing states, only Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will conduct their own auctions as they have moved ahead with their respective auction processes, he added.
    
"The Centre’s three agencies — MECON, MECL and MSTC — will aid the Centre in the auction process. MECON will be the transaction advisor and will conduct location survey, differential GPS study as well as do the documentation," Kumar said.
    
The government's mineral exploration arm, Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL), will prepare survey reports for the mines to be auctioned, and the metal scrap trading PSU MSTC will ready the auction platform, he added.
    
"The government wants to start the auctions by November and allot the mines in a transparent process on behalf of the states. We will do the hand-holding for the states, this will make possible all auctions at a single platform, making it easier for prospective buyers," Kumar noted.
    
The Centre can pay the agencies conducting the auction on behalf of the states, which can be paid back later, he explained.
    
"This arrangement is only for phase I. No decision has been made for phase II, where states have identified around 96 blocks, which will be taken up once phase I gets over. In many cases, these 96 blocks need to have G1 and G2 level of exploration reports and most of them are in G3 and G4 level,” Kumar added.

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