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No Rate For Emerald In India-Jharkhand Unable To Add Another Feather To Its Cap

Reacting to the Jharkhand Government’s proposal for allocation of the emerald mines in the State through the auction mode under the MMDR Act, the Union Government has suggested exploration of possibilities to conduct mining of emerald blocks through a Public Sector Undertaking of the State Government or that of the Central Government instead.

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The Government of India has refused to determine the price of emerald stones that have been recently found in Jharkhand. The Central Government has showed its inability to decide the price of the mineral in the light of the fact that never before has the production of emeralds been reported in the country and the set formula that is used to determine the price of other minerals could not be applied to fix the rate of emerald.

The two blocks of emerald deposits –  Barunmuti and Bahutiya blocks – containing substantial quantities of emerald stones are claimed to have been discovered in Gurabandha block of East Singbhum district of Jharkhand. The deposit is believed to have a rich quantity of over 55.87 tonnes. But the State Government is in a fix over granting its mining lease through the auction route – that is mandatory under Mines and Mineral Development Regulation Act (MMDR) –  for want of a fixed rate for production and sale of emeralds in the country.  

Reacting to the Jharkhand Government’s proposal for allocation of the emerald mines in the State through the auction mode under the MMDR Act, the Union Government has suggested exploration of possibilities to conduct mining of emerald blocks through a Public Sector Undertaking of the State Government or that of the Central Government instead. In fact, the Union Government is believed to have reprimanded the State Government for planning to grant mining lease for emeralds through the auction route as its rate has not been decided by the Indian Bureau of Mines under Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 2017. The State Government is supposed to allocate the lease on nomination basis to a PSU, albeit in clear defiance of the set norms under the MMRD Act.

As per letter no. 175/P of the Indian Bureau of Mines, Government of India, ‘As the production of emerald (uncut) is not reported in the country under MCDR, 2017, the average sale price of emerald (uncut) has not been determined by IBM.’

Letter no. 176/P of Union Ministry of Mines further stated that since it was not produced in India and there were variations in the prices of its low grade and high grade, application of the formula set for determining prices of other minerals did not appear to be feasible.

The Union Ministry further said ‘considering the above, the State Government is requested to explore the possibility of mining of emerald blocks through a Central or State PSU instead of allocating it through auction.’

However, the State Government has confided that it cannot afford to award the work to its PSU for want of resources. The dossier said that the State Government had its PSU namely Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC), but it did not have enough resources to conduct mining operations for emerald stones. However, the Mines Department of the State Government has suggested that the JSMDC has already a joint venture with the Central Government’s PSU National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) -under the banner of Jharkhand National Mineral Development Corporation- in operation and the work can be awarded to the NMDC as such.

As per the available data, the total resources of emeralds in the country are estimated at 55.87 tonnes. Significantly, all resources placed under reconnaissance category have been reported in the state of Jharkhand only.

Reconnaissance of emerald has also been reported from Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, though the quantum of their reserves has not been estimated so far. Production of emerald has not been reported since 1983. However, a single lease of 46.32 hectare area was granted to M/s Serva Shri Mining & Mineral Industries in Ajmer district of Rajasthan in the year 1998.

Although India does not figure among big producers of emerald in the world, Jaipur in Rajasthan is the major centre for processing emeralds. The processing includes 'faceting' and 'polishing' of emerald stones to achieve maximum internal reflection enhancing the beauty of stone. Emeralds are generally given a step-cut or cabochon-cut. Like diamonds, uncut emerald is imported and part of it is exported after processing. Emerald is next to diamond (uncut) amongst precious and semi-precious stones, being imported and re-exported after cutting and polishing.

World production of emerald is reported mainly from Colombia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Africa, Nigeria, Mozambique, the United States of America, Madagascar, Brazil, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

MMTC is an authorised agency of the Government of India for import of precious & semi-precious stones including emerald and supplies these items to jewellers for domestic sales and exports.

Incidentally, the Gurabandha area had been identified as a stronghold of ultra-left outfits in the past and villagers of Gurabandha block in East Singhbhum district were opposed to the government’s initiatives to give emerald-mining lease to outsiders, presumably under the prodding from ultras. They even held a protest meet at Kurian village, a Maoist stronghold, in 2016 with traditional weapons under the banner of ‘Jal, Jangal, Jamin Suraksha Samiti’ (Water, land, and forest protection committee).

The special branch of the State Police claimed that Maoists raised about Rs. 35 lakh per month from illegal mining of emeralds in the area and they have been instigating villagers to oppose the Government’s move. This enabled them to keep on illegitimate funds pouring in. However, police now claim that the area is now free from Maoists’ menace and mining operation can be conducted undisrupted.

To top it all, with the production of emeralds, Jharkhand will not only create an additional source of revenue and place India among global producers of emeralds as well, but will help establish a semblance of administration in the purported stronghold of ultras too.    


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