The third round of Punjab government auction for sand mines, which took place Monday, evinced little interest, with bids only for 16 of a total of 51 mines. As many as 30 mines attracted no bids. Four mines got single bidders, who were disqualified for that reason. The officials of the sand mining department said the poor response pointed to the “gradual stabilisation” of the sector.
“This is the right kind of response. Earlier, it was an abnormal response when contractors bid unrealistically high. With the government identifying more and more mines and putting them to auction, a message has gone out that the sand and gravel will be sold only at reasonable prices. The business is no longer that lucrative,” said an official. The government managed to get Rs 46.62 crore against the reserve price of Rs 9.62 crore in today’s auction. The mines auctioned today are said to contain a total quantity of 11.13 lakh tons of sand and gravel. The government has calculated the price per ton, post-auction, at Rs 419 crore.
During the first round of auctions in May 2017, the government had received bids worth crores for sand mines. Congress party’s Rana Gurjit Singh was embroiled in a controversy after it emerged that his ex-employees bid for the mines at an exorbitantly high price and he eventually had to step down from the Cabinet. In the first round, 89 mines were auctioned, but at least 39 high bidders who won their bid did not show up to make the security deposit. The government was expecting a revenue of over Rs 1,000 crore, but had to revise this downward after many of the high bidders backed out.
In the second round in July, it auctioned 43 mines including several cancelled during the earlier May bids. In the fourth round, the government will be auctioning 145 mines of sand (2.7 crore tonnes) and 18 mines of gravel (0.2 crore tonnes) on March 15.