According to Dainik Bhaskar’s latest report, the Rajasthan Department of Mines and Geology has allotted limestone mines worth Rs. 1000 crores at Rs. 5 crores to the state’s renowned RDSA Mining Company by labeling the mines to be that of marble. To get a better insight into the matter, GoaChronicle got in touch with Harsh Khatana, the Dainik Bhaskar journalist who has exposed the scam. As told by Khatana, limestone mines at Danta, traversing an area of 74.249 hectares and at Kela Mela, spread across an area of 10.4162 hectares was labeled as marble rather than limestone mines.
Khatana explained that limestone comes under the ambit of ‘major minerals’ and its mines are auctioned off as per the Centre’s rules but marble is a ‘minor mineral’ and is auctioned as per the state’s rules. The Department of Mines and Geology changed the category of both the mines and allotted them to the RDSA Mining Company. With this, questions are being raised about the conduct of the Additional Chief Secretary of the Mines Department, Subodh Agarwal and the Director of the department, KB Pandya. It is believed that this is the biggest mines scam after the one which took place back in 2015 under the BJP ruling the state.
The Dainik Bhaskar journalist told GoaChronicle that the well-known RDSA Mining Company successfully managed to get the possession of the limestone mines at drastically reduced rates and the company which also owns Wonder Cement has cement factories near both the mines and would now easily extract limestone to produce cement. This would facilitate Wonder Cement for further development. Even after so much has happened, the Rajasthan Government has maintained a stony silence. When the Mines Department was asked as to why had they categorized the mines to be those of marble, they cited the mineral’s ‘hardness’ as the reason but still, the department did not place the condition for RDSA Mining to use the mineral as marble and it is set to produce cement out of it. This has been done to provide a further push to the particular company.
The Mines Department officials have also claimed that the deal is lucrative because categorizing the mines under those of marble would lead to a recovery of 70% which would generate more royalty, but this doesn’t seem to be possible. All the marble mines in Rajasthan generate a recovery of mostly 25-30% and the 70% claim is a mere manipulation. Also, as per rules, if the mines contain the mineral other than that for which the auction took place, the mines will fall under the category of the mineral which is extracted.
On the other hand, Subodh Agarwal has affirmed that the auction and allotment has been transparent and the rules have been followed without any loopholes and the government will be able to generate a much higher amount of royalty through the ‘marble mines’ categorization.