India will either auction a diamond project that Rio Tinto decided to abandon or allocate it to a state firm, the country’s Mines Minister said.
He stressed that the administration would move quickly to tap the Bunder deposit which is about 500 km (300 miles) southeast of New Delhi.
Rio Tinto discovered the deposit in 2004. It is estimated to contain more than 27 million carats of diamonds.
Rio Tinto announced earlier [in August] it would abandon the mine, despite spending about $500 million on it over the years, by the end of 2016 to conserve cash and cut costs.
Mines Secretary Balvinder Kumar told Reuters in an interview the withdrawal came as a surprise to the government since Rio was close to receiving a forest clearance for the mine from the environment ministry.
Rio Tinto’s decision came at a time when the government was seeking the help of the firm and its rivals, such as Anglo American, to explore for diamonds and gold to make India a major mineral producer.