After insurance ‘scam’, Sapphire mining contract under scanner
Srinagar, Oct 27: After the Reliance General Insurance fiasco, more skeletons are expected to tumble out of the closet.
The J&K Governor’s administration is now scrutinising how a Delhi-based firm was chosen to “explore and exploit” the prized Sapphire mines of J&K.
Mineworks Private Limited, a merely five-year-old company based in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, was recently “selected” to work in a joint venture with Jammu and Kashmir Minerals Limited to extract priceless Kashmir Sapphire from the mines under possession of the latter in Padder Valley of Kishtwar.
Sources told The Kashmir Monitor that Governor, Satya Pal Malik, was keen to know the entire process undertaken for “selection” of the company for the joint venture.
It was back in 2011, when the J&K government first floated global tenders for mining the Sapphire.
The process was left undone and then repeated in 2013, but it never saw daylight, until the name of Mineworks Private Limited came up recently.
“Governor wants to know how the company succeeded in getting the contract, who all were its competitors and what made it better than them. Besides, what all works of this nature and magnitude has the company undertaken in the past,” the source said.
An order issued on October 16 seems to corroborate the source.
“Sanction is hereby accorded to the constitution of a ‘Group of Officers’ comprising to examine the process followed since the inception of M/S Mineworks Pvt 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,” the order read.
“The Group of Officers, based on critical assessment shall make recommendations to move forward on the project.”
The group, as per the order, includes Administrative secretary, Home Department, as its chairman.
The remaining of the members include: administrative secretary, finance; administrative secretary, planning, development and monitoring department; administrative secretary, industries and commerce; and administrative secretary department of law and justice and parliamentary affairs.
The group has until October 30 to submit its recommendations.
Contacted, none of its members was willing to talk over the matter.
Managing Director J&K Minerals, Vikram Gupta, too did not respond to multiple calls over two days.
As for Mineworks Private Limited, the company does not appear to have any website or contact number listed anywhere.
It’s practically non-existent on social media, too.
One of the two Facebook pages with the same name belong to an animation studio and a Singaporean company dealing in cryptocurrency.
The only information once can find about Mineworks Private Limited is listed on zaubacorp.com, a website that carries basic information of companies.
As per it, Mineworks Private Limited was incorporated on April 10, 2013, with one Raj Kumar Tongya as one of its seven directors.
One piece of information that checked was that Tongyas are from Jaipur and have been trading in gemstone polishing and manufacturing.
Although, no monetary figure can be yet attached to the Sapphire contract, it is considered the most money-spinning one given what is to be explored: Kashmir Sapphire, a gemstone that fetches whopping figures in international markets.
For instance, back in 2015, a 35-carat Kashmir Sapphire fetched $7.3 million (Over Rs 50 crore) at an auction in Geneva by Christie’s, the world-famous auction house.
Similarly, a Kashmir Sapphire mounted on a diamond ring, is estimated between $ 1.4 to 2.4 million by Christie’s, which is going to auction it in Geneva on November 13.
J&K Minerals Limited holds the mining lease for a 6.65 sq km area at Paddar, situated at a height of 4,327 metres. Mining is possible in only two summer months a year due to extreme climate conditions and inaccessibility.
Sapphire from Padder is famous all over the world for its unique blue colour and unparalleled clarity and transparency.
The first ever mention of these mines was made in 1890 by Tom D LaTouche, the Deputy Superintendent Geological Survey of India, who travelled to Kishtwar to survey the mines.
The Kashmir Monitor accessed the travelogue, which is now part of the now a part of the Geological Survey of India records.
Here is what, in his own words, brought Tom to Kishtwar: “In the year 1887 the Kashmir Durbar, finding that the revenue from the mines, which had been worked by them with considerable profit since the first discovery, was steadily diminishing, applied to the Government of India for a geologist to examine the mines, and I was deputed to visit and report upon their present condition.”