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How 8 Lakh Metric Tonnes of Wasted Iron Ore in Karnataka Caused Damages Worth Crores

If all the 8 lakh tonnes of ore was permitted to be sold, the State would have got revenue of Rs 352.73 crore. (Image: News18)

If all the 8 lakh tonnes of ore was permitted to be sold, the State would have got revenue of Rs 352.73 crore. (Image: News18)

The ore that isn’t, hundreds of crores washed away in Karnataka.

Iron ore is still one of the most sought resources for the economy and industry of any nation. Thankfully India has several places rich in iron ore. Over some time, the value of the ore has only increased. But here is the story of iron ore – 8 lakh metric tonnes of it that weren’t claimed by any but wanted by all.

In 2007, iron ore was illegally mined from the forests of Bellary in broad daylight. They were then shipped to China and other countries via Baithkol harbour in Karwar and Belekeri port in Uttara Kannada district. Illegal mining made a huge noise nationwide and the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) who raided various spots of mining and transportation.

In one such raid, a whopping 8 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore was stopped from being transported at Belekeri and Baithkol. The case is still sub judice. After 12 long years, the JMFC court has permitted the online auction of 30,000 tonnes of ore that is now remaining. Over the last 12 years, most of the ore that was dumped near the port is washed away by the rains. Some part of it was also stolen, claim the local officials.

Now it is estimated that the remaining quantity of the ore is around 30,000 metric tonnes only, out of 8 lakh metric tonnes.

The cost

Now, let’s do a calculation of what is lost. Rather than just letting that huge quantity of rich iron ore wash and waste away, if the government had itself auctioned or sold it, how much would it earn? And what is the value of the ore today, if all of those 8 lakh metric tonnes were still intact?

In 2007, when the ore was raided on orders from Lokayukta, the value of the ore was Rs 5,500 per tonne for A grade ore, Rs 4,000 tonne for B grade and Rs 3,000 for C grade ore. At present, all the different grades of ore have mixed up in the heap. Hence the current price is estimated as Rs 4,000.

If all the 8 lakh tonnes of ore was permitted to be sold, the State would have got revenue of Rs 352.73 crore. But now the 30,000 tonnes may fetch just Rs 12 crore only. Also, if all the ore was sold in 2007 itself, their value would be much higher given the price of the ore then. The loss to the State treasure is really huge.

The Karwar DC, Mullai Mugilan said, “We are all prepared for the auction. The mining and geology departments are also working with us. We have installed multiple CC cameras to track vehicle numbers and movements of trucks carrying ore. The date of the auction is not decided yet. Several companies from outside Karnataka have also shown interest in taking part in the auction. We are pretty sure this will be a successful event.”

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first published:January 18, 2022, 23:58 IST