Centre keen on Kolar Gold Fields revival

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awaiting new lease of life:  The century-old  mines at the Kolar Gold Fields that have remained closed for the last ten years.   dh Photo  P Samsom Victor

B L Bagra, managing director of Bharat Gold Mines Ltd (BGML) and also director, finance, National Aluminium Company Ltd (Nalco) told Deccan Herald that as per the assurance given to the Karnataka High Court, the Centre is “weighing several options” for the revival of the mines at KGF and a decision would be taken soon.

“For the past four years, the government has been thinking about reviving mining in Kolar. There is no doubt on that. But, whether Nalco or any other public sector unit will be part of the revival process cannot be determined at this juncture,” he said.

He said the Union Ministry of Mines was evaluating various options. “The government could either sell the mining assets in Kolar through a global tender, which will be subject to the court judgment or ask one of the PSUs or a consortium of PSUs like Nalco and National Mineral Development Corporation to take up revival of the mines.”

In case the Centre gets the court’s approval to go ahead with the bidding, the companies that take part in the process will work with the condition that they must compulsorily bring in new technology for mining and not only just take up the management.

Technical collaboration

Bagra said foreign companies will be required to offer technical collaboration and may not be offered either ownership or lease of the mines.

It had been estimated that around 30 tonnes of gold was available in the tailings alone and it could be exploited over the next 10 to 15 years, he added.

He also pointed out that there was a need for a techno-economic study to establish whether there was a potential for reopening the abandoned mines at KGF in view of the high price that gold commands now. Before undertaking such an exercise, the mines had to be cleared of the huge quantity of water that has accumulated there over the last 10 years.

Workers’ future

At the time of closure, the mines employed about 3,000 workers and if it has to be reopened, the government will  have to decide on their future. Bagra said: “In case the bidding goes through, the highest bidder will be taken to the employees’ society who will have the first right to refuse.”

On whether Nalco, having already operated the mines before the closure of BGML, will be the front-runner if PSUs were considered, Bagra said: “The Centre has to approach us officially and until then, nothing is certain.”

Though the news of revival has come as a pleasant surprise for the miners, they are uncertain about their future in case private players were brought in.

Former employees of BGML are busy preparing blueprints to protect their interests, hoping that  Nalco will spearhead the revival process. Among other things, they have sought a stake in the company once it is revived. “Early this month, we have filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court seeking additional compensation for being retrenched in 2001,” said Yeshwanth Raju, president of the BEML Employees, Supervisors and Officers’ Forum.

Bagra, however, maintained that no additional compensation is payable to the ex-employees as they had already been paid in line with the existing rules.

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