Prafulla Mallick, one of the select ministers to have retained his crucial portfolio of steel & mines in the BJD government’s fifth term, has meant business right from the word go.Soon after assuming his responsibility, the veteran leader from Kamakhyanagar, announced to hasten the pace of mineral auctions in Odisha. It may be recalled that the state drew a blank in FY2019 as auctions of mineral blocks got enmeshed in a legal tangle. Despite Odisha initiating auctioning for Chandiposhi and Purheibahal, both iron ore deposits in ore laden Sundargarh, public interest litigation (PIL) filed in the Delhi High Court last year had scuttled the process. The legal row was pertaining to the maximum lease area that could be held by a miner. According to Mineral Auction Rules of 2015, an eligible bidder for auctions is debarred from holding more than 10 square km of area in its leasehold. The case was purported to object to Tata Steel’s participation at auctions despite the bidder owning more than 50 square km of mining lease area.Now, with the decks clearing for auctions after the withdrawal of PIL, the Odisha government is all agog for auction. In fact, the department of mines has readied 40 mineral blocks for competitive bidding. Besides the virgin mineral resources, the state is also fully geared up to auction the mines now held by merchant miners which are due to lapse by March 31, 2020.“Licenses of 24 working mines will lapse in 2020 and we have begun the process of auctioning those mines. We have almost completed the auctioning formalities for 20 of the working mines and 16 other mines will also get auctioned” said Mallick after a review meeting with senior officials of steel & mines department.The review revealed that Odisha government’s revenue from mines in 2018-19 increased by 70.92% to Rs 10, 479 crore. Meanwhile, the annual production of OMC is currently at 16 million tonnes and plans are afoot to scale up production to 20 million tonnes, informed Mallick. In 2018-19, 19 mineral blocks were auctioned by states- nine iron ore, five limestone, three graphite and one each for manganese and gold. The value of the resources bid out is estimated at Rs 42671.50 crore. Incremental contribution to states’ revenue because of auctions is assessed at Rs 32,004.51 crore. For 2019-20, 10 mineral deposits worth Rs 6331.08 crore have been auctioned (as on May 23, 2018). Data collated by the Union mines ministry shows the country has auctioned 64 mineral blocks since the promulgation of the amended Mines and Minerals- Development & Regulation (MMDR) Act, 2015. Total revenue accruing to states during the lease period of these mine spanning 50 years has been worked out at Rs 1.85 lakh crore.