Not 3,000 tonnes, only 160 kg gold reserve in UP’s Sonbhadra: GSI

Avaneesh Mishra

Earlier, district mining officer K K Rai had claimed to have found 3,350 tonnes of gold.

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) on Saturday distanced itself from reports of discovery of gold deposits estimated around 3,350 tonnes in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district.

The Kolkata-headquartered agency stated in a release that gold which can be extracted from 52,806.25 tonnes of ore is approximately “160 kg, and not 3,350 tonnes, as mentioned...”

Earlier, district mining officer K K Rai had claimed to have found 3,350 tonnes of gold.

After an exploration done by the GSI 20 years ago that was shared with the state government only last year indicated that there are 52,806.25 tonnes of estimated gold ore available in Sonbhadra district from which around 160 kg of gold can be extracted, the Uttar Pradesh government took cognizance of the report and has started the process to extract the gold this month.

The GSI, which claims to have done the exploration work between 1998 and 2000 and had kept the findings with them as it was “not that significant”, shared the report with the state government last year only after the Centre, in 2015, made it a rule that GSI has to share all such exploration works with the state governments concerned, a GSI official said on Saturday.

After going through the report, the Directorate of Geology & Mining (DGM), Uttar Pradesh, wrote to the district magistrate (DM) of Sonbhadra on February 17 asking to form a team of officials comprising from mining department and district administration to conduct a survey of the particular area as mentioned in the GSI report. The survey was completed on Saturday.

The GSI, too, held a media briefing on the matter in Kolkata on Saturday and GSI Director General (DG) M Shridhar said several exploration works for gold were carried out by GSI Northern Region between 1998 and 2000 and resource of 52,806.25 tonnes of ore with 3.03 grams per tonne gold was estimated.

The DG also clarified that GSI has never claimed that there was 3,350 tonnes of gold in Sonbhadra district.

“GSI, Northern Region, had carried out several exploration works for gold. However, the results were not encouraging to come-up with major resources for gold in Sonbhadra. This exploration was carried in Field Season 1998-99 and 1999-2000. The report has been handed over to the Directorate of Geology & Mining, Uttar Pradesh, for information and further necessary action. In the report, GSI has estimated a probable category resource of 52,806.25 tonnes of ore with 3.03 grams per tonne gold (average gold) for a strike length of 170m in Sonapahari area,” read the GSI DG’s statement.

Shridhar told mediapersons that the mineralized zone has an average grade of 3.03 grams per tonne of gold and is tentative in nature and the total gold which can be extracted from the total resource of 52,806.25 tonnes or ore is approximately 160 kg only.

Ashish Kumar Nath, Director & PRO, GSI Central Headquarters, too said, “The exploration was carried in Field Season 1988-99 and 1999-2000 when we had found that there was an estimated resource of 52,806.25 tonnes of ore with 3.03 grams per tonne gold. This information was not significant for us as we know that extracting 160 kg gold, or even lesser, from more than 52,000 tonnes can cost a lot. Therefore, we had kept the report with us for a long time and did not do anything on it. After Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 2015 came into force which had a clause that we have to share all our reports with the state governments, we shared the report with the UP Government last year since we had thousands of such reports lying with us.

Sonbhadra District Magistrate (DM) S Rajalingam Saturday said that a report was sent to him by the Directorate of Geology & Mining (DGM) Uttar Pradesh on February 17 which stated about 29,431.25 tonnes of gold reserve and to form a team for the survey. A team working at the site to understand the geological structure of the areas has finished their work today and the report will soon be sent to the directorate to move further with the process of e-auctioning, he added.

The team included Joint Director, in-charge of Investigation, headquarters, Jay Prakash, in-charge of regional mining office at Sonbhadra, Vijay Kumar Maurya, Sonbhadra mining officer KK Rai, Assistant Geologists Ram Pravesh Singh, SN Patel and Daud Ansari along with surveyor, headquarters, Santosh Kumar and was asked to be at the spot from February 17 to February 22 (Saturday) for spot inspection and present a report for auction/tender.

According to the DM, the report he received mentioned that there is an estimated store of 29431.26 tonnes of Gold reserve in Sona Pahadi block, 12.7 tonnes of Andalusite (an aluminium nesosilicate mineral) in Pulwar block A and 22.16 tonnes in Pulwar block B, 60.18 tonnes Andalusite in Salaiyadioh block, 9.66 tonnes of Potash mineral in Patwadh block and 14.87 tonnes of iron ore in Bharhari area block.

Asked about the process to be followed after the report by the survey team is submitted, he said that these are among major minerals and they have to receive further direction on what to do next.

“Now there has to be e-auctioning which will be from the side of the Government of India. At present, the team which came for survey has left. The team consist of GSI officials and officials from the DGM and district administration,” he said, adding that in preliminary survey, possibility of Uranium deposits was found.

It was mentioned in the report that before the auction there is a need for detailed understanding of the geological structure of the areas and the lands are to be identified by superimposing of geological maps on khasra maps with the help of revenue records and for that a team has been formed.