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Report: India's NMDC set to explore Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder diamond deposits

India's central state of Madhya Pradesh asked state-owned National Mineral Development Corp. Ltd. to explore the Rio Tinto-abandoned Bunder deposits, which could contain millions of carats of diamonds, Reuters reported Jan. 10, citing the Mineral Resource Department's principal secretary.

"We have requested NMDC to do a composite role of exploring and mining and the company has shown a preliminary interest," Neeraj Mandloi told Reuters.

The government awarded a smaller portion of the deposit to Aditya Birla Group's Essel Mining and Industries in December 2019, the report noted. That area was valued at about US$9 billion, according to estimates by Rio Tinto and the state government.

In 2017, NMDC was reported to have planned to bid for the Bunder deposits, which Rio Tinto had given to the government of India.

Rio Tinto spent about US$90 million over 14 years on the Bunder project, with plans to invest up to US$500 million. However, the company pulled out due to legal battles with green activists and delays in acquiring environmental permits.