The National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), India’s state-owned mining behemoth that is country’s largest iron ore producer and exporter, is said to be planning a bid for the Bunder diamond mine. Rio Tinto abandoned the unfinished mine earlier this year, after spending a decade and an estimated $190 million on prospecting and development work.
While Rio Tinto stated commercial reasons for its decision to exit, the proposed mine had also hit an official hurdle when the Indian government had, after two years of considerations, held up clearance for the mine to go ahead, saying it endangered a tiger habitat.
The NMDC currently also operates the Majhgawan mine at Panna, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where the Bunder mine is also located. The Majhdawan mine has only a marginal output of a few thousand carats a year.
The yet-to-be-finished Bunder mine, which is valued at $9 billion, is being offered for sale by the state government and the Adani and Vedanta mining groups have expressed an interest in buying it. The UK-headquartered Vedanta’s billionaire owner Anil Agarwal also holds a 20 percent stake in Anglo American, which owns De Beers.
The Bunder mine was estimated by Rio Tinto to be able to produce 3 million carats a year and was seen as generating 30,000 jobs.