Rio Tinto appeals for expediting approval for diamond mine project

Global mining major Rio Tinto has approached the Project Monitoring Group a special cell created in the Cabinet Secretariat for fast-tracking the commissioning of large projects to expedite the pace of approvals for its Rs 2,200 crore diamond mining project in the Bundelkhand area of Madhya Pradesh.

Rio Tinto's Bunder mine has kimberlite grade diamonds worth 27. 5 million carats, which is estimated to be seven times richer than the Panna diamond mine of state-run NMDC Limited, with a likely production rate of at least 20 times greater than that of Panna.

Once the deposit is developed, Madhya Pradesh could rank among the top 10 diamond producing regions of the world in volume and value terms. A Prospecting License was granted to ACC Rito Tinto Exploration Ltd in 2006 and 2007 for an area spread over 90 sq km, and in early 2012, the state government issued the "Letter of Intent" paving the way for seeking other approvals. The company has bagged licences for carrying out reconnaissance across nearly 10,000 sq km in Anantapur and Nalgonda districts of Andhra Pradesh for locating diamonds, gold, copper ore and zinc.

"However, it would be another three years before we begin full-fledged exploration. We are waiting for the mining lease and environmental clearance. We expect the mine to be operational by 2016-17," Rio Tinto India's country chief Nik Senapati said. He said the firm has submitted its diamond mine project to the Project Monitoring Group under cabinet secretary Ajit Seth's office to ease out hurdles impeding its implementation.

Rio Tinto is scheduled to conduct gram sabha meetings soon, which is a pre-requisite for seeking green clearances. The company has four diamond projects across the world including Bunder. They are the Argyle mine at Kimberley in Western Australia, Diavik mine in Canada (60 per cent stake) and and the Murowa mine in South Central Zimbabwe (78 per cent stake). Rio Tinto has established a joint venture with Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd and NMDC Limted for development of iron ore mines in Orissa's Keonjhar and Sundergarh districts.

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