Untapped mineral wealth

The abundant mineral resources of Jammu and Kashmir have been left so far untapped due to government obliviousness. Minerals, figuring from coal to gypsum to granite to prized Kashmir sapphire, found in abundance in the state is well established by a number of surveys and reports conducted by international experts as well as local ones. However, the economic survey conducted by none other than the state government itself shows that due to lack of capital and technology the state-run J&K Minerals Limited (JKML) has not only failed to extract this underground wealth but is running into losses.

As per the survey not only the extraction capability of the JKML has gone down in last three-four years but even the number of employees involved in the corporation work has also decreased drastically. Just as an example, the revenue generated by the corporation in coal extraction has decreased from Rs 1021.18 lakh in 2011 to Rs 510.08 lakh in 2013, as the extraction work has slowed down. Similar is the case with gypsum and sapphire extractions.

In a state which is energy deficient as well as resource hungry, abandoning its natural resource be it water or mineral reserves is neither affordable nor acceptable. Government’s inefficiency in mobilizing capital and bringing in technology for exploitation of this mineral wealth is going to cost heavily on the state. It has been due to state government’s inability to mobilise the required capital and bring in international players, that the NHPC has taken over control of the almost all power generation in Jammu and Kashmir. While it generates electricity (almost half of its total capacity) in the state for almost nothing, it even hesitates to return back the promised share of 12 percent power to state. And then sells back the power to the state at much exuberant rates.

If state fails to utilize its mineral resources on its own, there may be soon some another ‘East India Company’ (read NHPC), which will start doing the job and leave us high and dry. Where the prized Kashmir sapphire, can fetch state much needed revenue (a 19.9 carat Kashmir sapphire was last year auctioned for about Rs 20 crore in London last year.) The gypsum and coal or granite and limestone is all imported to the state for the local needs.

To create capital there are many option for the state, but what needs is the will to take action. State can generate money locally by borrowing from the markets and asking for local investment, where the government can be the sovereign guarantor or it can invite international bids and investor as well.