Following a decline in global iron ore prices, the Goa government has decided to put on hold its third phase of iron ore e-auction till the market prices stabilise. Director of Goa Mines and Geology Department Prasanna Acharya confirmed this recently. The third phase of e-auction was scheduled for next week.

Prices have fallen, especially in China, by $11-12 a tonne in past three weeks. The State has already auctioned approximately 1.7 million metric tons of ore over the last one month in two phases after the Supreme Court allowed the State to carry out e-auction of ore extracted prior to the October 5th ban on mining activities.

The Department needs to fix base price for bid, which is also dependent on market value of ore. The State would be auctioning 15 million metric tons of iron ore lying at jetties, leases, plots, beneficiary plants and port as per Supreme Court order.

The State through the MSTC had auctioned 5.35 lakh metric tons of low-grade ore on February 17; a second lot of 12 lakh metric tons was auctioned on March 5. Meanwhile, in what is seen as a ray of hope for the barge sector reeling under the crisis of mining ban, Goa Barge Owners' Association (GBOA), body representing barges operating in the ore transportation, said that Mr. Prasanna Acharya has asked interested barge owners to make necessary application to the Department by March 21 that they intend to do transportation of ore.

Of the 260 barges which operated in the iron ore transport sector, 85 barges are ready to carry out transportation at any time, sources said. The barge-owners have sought State and Central government's intervention to give them relief package from rising NPAs with banks and financial institutions as the sector is hit by the18-month-old mining ban in the State. President of GBOA Atul Jadhav recently told The Hindu that of the nearly 214 barge loans the total dues are Rs.332 crore of which Rs.228 crore have become NPAs. They have sought a waiver of the accumulated barge interest of around Rs.70 crore and to bring down the outstanding barge advances to the level of scrap value of the barges.