Huge gold mine found in UP's Sonbhadra. Now what?
We are stoked to hear about Geological Survey of India's discovery of two gold mines in the Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh. But what happens now? When does the mining actually begin? Find the answers below.
In the bleak landscape that is the Indian news cycle, one bit of news has arrived which can be considered a silver lining - or rather, a golden one.
After two decades of searching, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology and Mining have discovered two gold mines, having around 3,350 tonnes of gold ore in the Naxalite-affected Sonbhadra district in Uttar Pradesh.
The deposits are estimated to be worth Rs 12 lakh crore (around 39% of India’s expenditure budget for 2020-2021) and almost five times India's current reserve of gold in quantity.
Now although this is an exciting bit of news, it's unlikely that our country will become the most prosperous nation in the world, and the apocryphal 'Superpower 2020' from tomorrow, just because of this newfound gold reserve. There is an elongated, official and bureaucratic process which has to be followed before even a gram of gold is extracted from the mines.
First of all comes the question, Whose land is it anyway? It has to be assessed how much land comes under the revenue department and how much falls under the forest department so that the process of permission from the forest department for mining can begin.
Demarcation and Geo-tagging
Then the government would have to auction these blocks through a process of e-tendering. But for the mining, the process of mapping the goldmine area and geo-tagging has to be completed before the auction process is initiated. The government will also have to roll out compensation payouts and get necessary approval before that.
Report and Research
The Geological Survey of India and the Uttar Pradesh Directorate of Geology and Mining will submit a report tomorrow. Post the submission of the report, the government is likely to issue tenders to companies for exploration and research related work.
Auction and Lease
This assessment and demarcation process can take months before the government can lease these mines. After the 2016 amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, private companies can now bid for mining leases via the auction process. This amendment also allows for the companies to get lease for a major mineral like gold for 50 years.
Once the mining process starts, if the estimates hold true, India's gold reserve would jump up to second place behind US. According to the World Gold Council's (WGC) data, the US has the largest gold holding with 8,133.5 tonnes, followed by Germany with 3,366 tonnes and IMF with 2,814 tonnes. Italy (2,451.8 tonnes) and France (2,436 tonnes) make the top five.
In Sonbhadra, gold deposits have been found at two places -- Sonpahadi and Hardi field. GSI estimated gold deposits of 2,700 tonnes in Sonpahadi, while 650 tonne in Hardi field. Currently, the GSI is conducting an aerial survey of the quarry area for which two helicopters have been deployed.
According to the state government, the process of geo-tagging has already been started with the goal of expediting the process in mind.
GSI abd mining experts carry out a helicopter survey of the Son Pahadi in Sonbhadra district. Officials have claimed presence of more than 3600 tonne gold reserve.— Himanshu Shekhar (@HimaanshuS) February 21, 2020
PS: The gold reserve expected in Sonbhadra is five times of India's total gold reseve now. Via @indiatvnews pic.twitter.com/t2fnde3hD7
GSI officials say the mineral-rich mines of Sonbhadra are easy to dig due to their geographical position. The mines are mostly situated on hillocks, which make them easy to mine.
The exploration of the vast goldmines and other minerals are expected to give a big boost to the state's revenue. Apart from providing both skilled and unskilled jobs, this will also lead to the much-needed development of backward regions in these two districts of UP.
This news assumes more importance when we consider the fact that India is the world's largest consumer of gold, with imports touching 900 tonnes a year. The Indian government has shown interest in reducing this import by increasing India's gold production. The Sonbhadra mines can be a big step towards that direction.
If the claims are true, then this can throw open the region to whole new opportunities.