Seven critical mineral blocks, that were put out for auction in the first round, have either not got bidders or have got less than three qualified bidders. These blocks will again be put up for the auctions in the fourth tranche, due later this year; following a tweak in some rules including putting in place clearances absence of which have come as a hindrance to the auction process, sources in the Union Mines Ministry told businessline.

A second round of e-auction is under-way for another six mineral blocks that have got more than five bids. This round of bidding (forward ascending) is being carried out to determine the winner of these blocks, mostly relating to fertiliser minerals, sources said.

“The second round of e-auction (forward ascending) was scheduled for six blocks vide notification dated March 13 2024. The second round of e-auction for these blocks are underway and will be completed as per schedule. The results will be out in the next few days,” VL Kantha Rao, Mines Secretary, said.

There were no bids for two blocks -- reportedly molybdenum in Tamil Nadu -- and less than three Technically Qualified Bidders (TQB) were there for four blocks, another official said.

Decision on one block in Gujarat – the Kundol Nickel and Chromium block of Gujurat - will be taken by Designated Officer in due course of time. Forest clearances are reportedly required for the block, which has hit the auctions.

Bids placed for 18 of 20 blocks

The first tranche of 20 critical minerals were launched in November 2023. A total 56 physical bids and 56 online bids -- across companies like Dalmia Bharat, Vedanta, JSW, Ola Electric and others -- were received for 18 blocks out of these 20 blocks.

Of these 20, there were seven blocks – including the one lithium block in Jammu and Kashmir – that got less than three bids, which led to them being put up for auction in the third tranche. The third tranche bidding ends in May and covers six other critical mineral blocks namely glauconite, graphite, nickel, platinum group of element (PGE), potash and titanium, apart from lithium. These blocks are located in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, UP and J&K.

A second round of bidding for 18 critical mineral blocks is underway too.

“The fourth tranche critical mineral block auctions will take place post the polls. And we are preparing for the same,” Rao said adding that six blocks which have not got bidders or have less then three bidders will be added to the fourth tranche. The GSI has already submitted a reporting suggesting probale blocks that could be put up for auction.