Kashmir Saphire Mining: Some calm for local businesses after govt assures ‘more local participation’

Srinagar: The Kashmir Business community that had shown its displeasure against a decision taken by the government to assign the job of exploration and exploitation of valley’s eminent Sapphire mines to a non-local company has taken a sigh of relief after a news about “more participation of locals than non-locals had reached their office.”

Sapphire, also known as ‘Start of Kashmir’ is a velvety blue gemstone found in Paddar, Kishtawar. The stone has been smuggled and sold in millions for being the purest sapphire in the world. The mines still remain largely unexplored.

However, this year, a decision has been taken by the Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited (JKML) to explore and exploit the mines in Kishtawar. The news made Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) react.

Fearing that the mining contracts would be given to big corporations, and that the locals would be left behind, the KCCI issued press statements stressing on their concerns.

Business leaders had called the decision “a move to plunder” state resources by JKML through the non-local company M/s Minework Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi.

“Sanction is hereby accorded to the constitution of a ‘Group of Officers’ comprising to examine the process followed since the inception of M/S MineworksPvt Ltd, New Delhi for exploration and exploitation of Sapphire mines in joint venture with JK Minerals Ltd, in all aspects including the relevant mining laws and rules,” read a order issued by the general administration department.

President, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Muhammad Ashraf Mir had condemned the move saying that an “outside company was roped in while local companies that were doing good in extraction of graphite were ignored.

Apart from KCCI and FCIK, another industry body Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir (CCIK) has also expressed shock and surprise over the decision.

“As usual an outside agency is being unduly benefitted even though the local entrepreneurs are more than qualified for executing this kind of work. This fact stands established with all the concerned departments of the local government. This is deprivation of job and benefit to the local people,” read a statement issued by the CCIK.

The JKML authorities had refused to comment on the decision. Meanwhile, KCCI had held a meeting with Governor J&K, Satya Pal Malik. After the meet, the news about JKLM’s working with the non-local company had come.

“We received calls from our sources after our meeting with the Governor. It may be in around 75: 25 ratio. The local company’s contribution (even if it is JLML) would be more than that of non-local company. It is a good thing,” says Sheikh Ashiq Ahmed, President KCCI adding, “The local entrepreneurs here need to work in joint ventures with outside companies as expertise is lacking here. However, more contribution should come from locals than non-locals as these are our resources and we should be prime beneficiaries of these. Our entrepreneurs are not getting good opportunities”

“The formal decision is yet to come. We will wait for the clarification from the government. Then, we will react accordingly. We raise fingers when we don’t finger things right and we appreciate efforts taken in right,” he says.


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