Australian diggers bagging Indian mining contracts
Monday, 11 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
SYDNEY: It started out as a trickle, but is promising to become a torrent as a number of Australian mining and exploration companies are increasingly bagging contracts in India. Dwyka Diamonds Ltd, a junior exploring company has become the latest Australian company in this genre to mark its presence on the Indian subcontinent. Dwyka has signed an alliance agreement with world's largest mining company BHP Billiton Plc/Ltd to explore diamonds in India. The agreement between Dwyka and BHP 'Big Australian' Billiton, signed last week will see the former cover some 55,000 sq km of prospective ground named Dharwar Craton in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. A Dwyka statement called Dharwar Craton the "last great diamond bearing region to remain unexplored", as it has produced some of the world's biggest diamonds like the 793 carat Kohinoor and the 787 carat Great Moghul. The Dwyka-BHP alliance will also cover license areas held by Captain S.P. Singh. These areas are reported to cover four known diamond bearing kimblerite pipes. Perth (Western Australia) based Dwyka would in fact undertake Singh's license areas immediately. Markets are expecting some good results from this follow up project as the pipes have already coughed up micro diamonds in abundant numbers in primary surface sampling. Rosy Blue, an Antwerp based diamond trader, is the other partner in the alliance doing exploring work in Andhra Pradesh. This India ward movement of Australian mining experts is stated to be a direct result of a recent shift in India's policy. The significant change in policy means private sector and foreign companies are signing more and more of mining contracts there. Beside Australian mining and corporate giants like BHP Billiton, CRA and MIM, a number of other significant international players like De Beers of South Africa, Rio Tinto of Britain and Ashton Mining of Canada have also joined the influx. The new environment of allowing the international companies to undertake mining and exploration projects in India is likely to yield positive results. These companies will apply the latest mining and exploration techniques in a territory historically known to be a fertile diamond producing region. Obsolete mining technology and stifling red tape were stated to be the main reasons behind India being relegated to a position among the insignificant producers of diamonds and other precious metals. In medieval days, India was the world's only source of diamonds. This monopoly came to end when diamonds were found in Brazil in the 18th century. Numerous Australian prospectors are thrilled that the Australian Stock Exchange listed Dwyka would be exploring in Dharwar Craton. Australian mining and exploration companies have been trying to get a foothold in the Indian mining sector of all the other in the global fraternity. Apart from the big firms like BHP Billiton, Australian junior mining companies Lake Resources, Oropa Limited, Grenfell Resources, Mineral Deposits Ltd, White Tiger Resources, Meridien Minerals, Austpac, Ticor, Cairn Energy and Australians Indian Resources among others have some presence in India. Australian mining industry export association, Austmine and Austenergy have also made it to India to have a slice of cake. The country's federal and state governments are also backing a push into India. Western Australia, known to have most of the country's resources, is one such state. As a part of one such initiative, Western Australia State Development Minister Clive Brown will lead a trade mission to India from November 14 to 23. The delegation will visit New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. The mission is being coordinated by the Department of Industry and Technology with the Western Australia Trade Office in India. Beside exploration and mining titans and juniors from Australia, few niche entrepreneurs have established the firm presence in India. Argyle Diamonds is one such resources company. The Perth based firm has joined with 16 Indian manufacturers and diamond polishing companies in the Indo-Argyle Diamond Council. Argyle is known for its diamond sorting, polishing, sales, distribution and other business activities. The council is likely to use Argyle expertise in market penetration programs aimed at the US market. A year back, an Australian copper smelting and converting company Ausmelt won few multi-million dollar contracts from India's Birla Copper. The first of these contracts was publicized as the company's "biggest ever" deal.