All that glitters may soon be gold, and worth Rs 25,000 crore! That’s what the ministry of mines has set out to extract by reworking the grey-white waste hillocks at the abandoned Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka.
Part of this treasure will also come from the mines themselves, still believed to have gold-bearing veins.
The ministry is pushing to revive India’s only world-class gold mining operation, shut in 2001 because of mounting losses and depleting reserves.
But the government is buoyed by the latest assessment it has conducted on the extractable gold.
India is the largest importer and consumer of gold in the world with the imports of the metal standing at around 800 tonnes last fiscal.
But domestic production has dropped to a mere 1.43 tonne. Reviving India’s dormant gold mining industry is key to cutting the rising gold import bill and boosting the economy.
Started by British firm John Taylor and Sons in 1880, these mines were nationalised in 1956.
In 1972, they were handed over to the PSU Bharat Gold Mines Ltd (BGML).
Nearly 800 tonnes of gold worth lakhs of crores of rupees were extracted from these mines, located about 100 kilometres from Bengaluru.
“The ministry will place within a month a proposal before the union cabinet for the revival of some of the world’s oldest and deepest mines. Details are being worked out with help from the law ministry,” union mines secretary Balvinder Kumar told Mail Today.
“We’re looking at gold worth more than Rs 25,000 crore from the dumps as well as the mines. These hill-like dumps made up of waste soil from the mines and milled remnants of gold-bearing ore are spread over an area of 2-3 km and weigh millions of tonnes. We would float global tenders to extract gold out of them. It’s a challenge, but we will do it,” Kumar said.
BGML employees and others took the legal route after the closure. In 2006, the union cabinet allowed the ministry of mines to sell, through a global tender, BGML assets, and invite bids to run the mines.
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