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COPE orders prompt probe into ilmenite deal

A prompt probe is to be initiated into the ilmenite sale deal carried out by Lanka Mineral Sands Limited, a wholly owned state-owned company. Prof. Charitha Herath, Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) requested the Secretary to the Ministry of Industries, Anusha Palpita, to immediately investigate and submit a report on the tender awarded by Lanka Mineral Sands Limited for the sale of ilmenite.

Investigations are to be instigated in to the action taken by this wholly owned state-owned company, for the sale of 85,000 metric tons of ilmenite at USD 147 per ton to the third-placed bidder instead of the buyer who had offered the highest price of USD 165 per ton of ilmenite.

Officials of Lanka Mineral Sands said the tender for the sale has been awarded by a tender subcommittee appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers and has been approved by the Cabinet.

The COPE members who drew their attention to this said it is observed that the officials of the Mineral Sands Institute have taken steps to mislead even the Cabinet of Ministers.

It was also revealed that the current price of a metric ton of ilmenite is close to USD 240. The committee focused its attention on the decline in sales in 2020 compared to the total sales in 2018 and 2019.

It was revealed that as a result of still storing the 85,000 metric tons of ilmenite sold to a buyer in October 2020 in the Pulmoddai deposit, the company is incurring losses due to minimizing the space available for the institution to store further minerals.

Officials of Lanka Mineral Sands Limited said that the deadline for the removal of the consignment has been extended due to the prevailing Covid situation.

It was revealed that payments had been made only for 65,000 metric tons from this stock and payment for another 20,000 metric tons is to be recovered.

Although the tenders were awarded by a subcommittee appointed by the Cabinet of Ministers, the Chairman stressed that in such cases, matters should be looked into more responsibly.

The COPE Chairman stated this at the Committee meeting held on the 23rd to review the performance of Lanka Mineral Sands Limited.

The committee also pointed out the importance of formulating a specific policy for the sale of mineral sands and instructed the Secretary to the Ministry to formulate a specific policy

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