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Posted at: Feb 6, 2018, 2:37 AM; last updated: Feb 6, 2018, 2:37 AM (IST)

Sand prices dip, mine bidders fail to pay up

Ruchika M Khanna

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5

The prices of sand and gravel have dropped due to excess supply and poor demand, much to the relief of the common man, even as bidders have failed to pay instalments of multi-crore bids on which they got mining rights.

The price of sand has fallen from Rs 18,000 per truck (800 cubic ft) in March last year to Rs 13,000. The price of aggregate (sand and gravel) has decreased from Rs 25,000 per truck in March 2017 to Rs 18,000. Illegal mining on sites not auctioned by the state government, supply from auctioned mines, and the material coming in from Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have all made construction material cheaper for the consumer.

Sources in the Directorate of Mines, Industries Department, told The Tribune that all parties (barring one or two), which had successfully bid for sand quarries in May last year, had failed to deposit the quarterly instalment (25 per cent of the bid amount), due on January 1. The mining contractors who won bids for mining in 12 quarries in November, too, have failed to deposit their quarterly instalment, due on February 1.

After the Congress government assumed office, 38 sand quarries were auctioned in May, 29 in July and 12 in November. In the May and July auctions, the bids received for a majority of the quarries were several times higher than the reserve price.

Most of the quarries were taken over by new bidders having close association with Congress leaders, including a cook of then minister Rana Gurjit Singh.

Expecting to make huge profits in mining, the bidders had made hefty bids, a miscalculation as the prices of sand and gravel continued to slide — courtesy large-scale illegal mining.

The losses for bidders is the maximum in Mohali, Ropar, Nawanshahr and Amritsar districts.

At the time of the auction, the bidders pay 25 per cent of the bid amount as security and another 25 per cent as first quarterly instalment. The next quarterly instalment is to be paid in advance, when the quarter begins.

“The bidders get a 15-day grace period to deposit the instalment, failing which they have a month to deposit the instalment with 18 per cent interest as penalty. For the 38 quarries whose one-month period expires on February 15, the officers in all districts are pushing the bidders to pay instalments. In case they fail to comply, we will have to shut the quarries after cancelling the bids,” a senior officer in the government told The Tribune.

What’s helping

Illegal mining on sites not auctioned by the government, supply from auctioned mines, and material coming from Haryana and HP have made construction material cheaper for the consumer.

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