Special Correspondent

Iron ore was carted away at throwaway prices, says the Minister

AllegationsContractors bought ore at a few hundred rupees a tonneLocal market price was around Rs. 1,400 a tonneAmount of ore mined not properly accounted for

Bangalore: Minister for Forests C. Chennigappa on Tuesday requested Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy to order an inquiry into transactions of the Government-owned Mysore Minerals Ltd. particularly between 2004 and 2006 when, according to him, iron ore was carted away at throwaway prices by some influential politicians.

The Minister's request is seen as a direct challenge to Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee President M. Mallikarjun Kharge.

Speaking to presspersons here, the Minister charged that over 15 contractors who had been blacklisted by the Government, with the support extended by Mr. Kharge, mined a large quantity of iron ore from the company's mines and exported it at high prices. The iron ore was bought by the contractors at "a few hundred rupees a tonne" although the prevailing local market price was around Rs. 1,400 a tonne, he said. Even the amount of ore mined had not been properly accounted for, resulting in a loss of revenue to the Government, he said.

Mr. Chennigappa has apparently levelled the charge against Mr. Kharge in the light of the latter levelling serious allegations against him. Mr. Kharge had even demanded a CBI investigation into the assets owned by Mr. Chennigappa.

Mr. Chennigappa challenged Mr. Kharge and said he was ready to face any kind of inquiry into the assets owned by him. It was up to Mr. Kharge to seek a thorough investigation.

The Minister said Mr. Kharge and some others in the Congress had begun to hurl charges against him because he was acting against unauthorised mining and quarrying.