Ballari: Ignoring opposition from environmentalists to fresh mining in the ecologically sensitive Sandur forests, the Union Ministry of Steel and Mines has launched ‘Operation Khanij Khoj’ to explore fresh iron ore reserves in the forests.
A team of geologists from Geological Survey of India (GSI), which has been authorised to look for concealed mineral deposits in this district, visited Ramaghad and Swamimalai forests in Sandur last week to search for virgin mineral blocks.
“The team did not make any progress as it was raining in the Sandur forests and is expected to come back for survey after the monsoon,” said a local officer of the Mines and Geology department.
Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL) will do the drilling necessary to assess the quantum of iron ore reserves available once the GSI geologists submit their report to the Union government. Besides doing the ground survey, the GSI has hired a consultant to do an aero-geophysical survey of Sandur forest. GSI sources say ‘Operation Khanij Khoj’ is part of the draft National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP), that is expected to be notified soon.
Private investment in exploration will reportedly be stepped up after approval of the attractive options proposed in the policy. “Once the NMEP is approved, these new mineral blocks will be e-auctioned to private companies,” said officers of the Ministry of Mines.
Asked why the government was opening up virgin forests for mining despite opposition from greens, an officer argued that exploration had to be done well in advance....