Srinagar: The decision of Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited to award exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines worth millions of dollars in KishtwarPadder area to a non-local company has raised many eyebrows in the state.
Business community in Kashmir has called it a move to allow “plunder” of state resources by the JKML through non-local companies. JKML has selected New Delhi-based M/S MineworkPvt Ltd for entering into joint venture for exploration and exploitation of sapphire mines under possession of the corporation in the Kishtwar district.
Sapphire is a precious gemstone and the ones found in the Padder area of Jammu and Kashmir is known as Kashmir Sapphire, which is famous world over. Kashmir sapphire fetches highest price though the gemstone of the mineral corundum mostly blue in colour consisting of aluminum oxide is also found in Burma, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar.
The decision to appoint outside mining company at a time when local firms have been exploring granite and other minerals successfully have raised question mark that why these companies have been ignored and an outside company has been selected for joint venture with JKML, said a senior officer of industries and commerce department.
“Besides, when JKML has to bring itself into existence for exploration of resources, why would they enter into such kind of a joint venture,’ he said.
The official asked how can JKML give control of mining Kashmir sapphire, whose value is in billions, be given to an outside company.
“We have ample examples of outside companies later refusing to leave state resources,” he said, adding, “example of NHPC, which took over control of water resources and now J&K buys power from them at exorbitant rates. We should not repeat it?”
President, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir, Muhammad Ashraf Mir said, “It is highly condemnable that outside company has been roped in extraction of sapphire mines with huge potential while ignoring local companies.”
Another industry body Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir (CCIK) has also expressed shock and surprise over handing over sapphire mines to an outside company.
“As usual an outside agency is being unduly benefitted even though the local entrepreneurs are more than qualified for executing this kind of work. This fact stands established with all the concerned departments of the local government. This is deprivation of job and benefit to the local people,” read a statement issued by the CCIK.
“This is again an attempt to plunder our natural resources as has been done earlier in the case of our water resources which are being looted without any substantial benefit to us,” it states adding that CCIK suggests to the administration that the local enterprise should be involved in the said industry rather than handing it over to outside agencies.
Former president of FCIK, ShakeelQalander said, “Land and resources are property of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir. We won’t allow plunder of our resources. We are already facing brunt of loot of our resources.”
When asked about the decision to engage an outside company instead of local one, MD, JKML, Vikram Gupta said, “Selection of the firm has taken place before my joining. I cannot comment on it.”
Director, geology and mining department, Farooq Ahmad said he has no information about the issue a JKML does not come under the department.
Meanwhile state government has constituted a committee to examine selection process of New Delhi-based Mineworks for sapphire mining.
“Sanction is hereby accorded to the constitution of a ‘Group of Officers’ comprising to examine the process followed since the inception of M/S MineworksPvt Ltd, New Delhi for exploration and exploitation of Sapphire mines in joint venture with JK Minerals Ltd, in all aspects including the relevant mining laws and rules,” read a order issued by the general administration department.
Administrative secretary, home department is the chairman of the group of officers, where as administrative secretary, finance, administrative secretary, planning, development and monitoring department, administrative secretary, industries and commerce and administrative secretary department of law and justice and parliamentary are members of the group.
However, CCIK has also questioned the formation of the said committee saying the members of the group do not have any expertise related to the matter.