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Wednesday, March 28, 2001

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First Indian gold refinery goes on stream

NASHIK, MAR 27: There’s good news for bullion buyers, who spend an estimated Rs 40,000 crore annually to import hall-marked gold. The first modern gold refinery in the country - the largest consumer of gold in the world - kicked off operations at Shirpur (near Nashik) in Maharashtra on Monday. The refinery, set up by Autoriders Industries-sponsored Agee Gold Refineries Ltd at a cost of Rs 375 crore, is fully funded through promoters' equity.

Interestingly, media major Zee's logo is being used to give product identification to the Agee Gold Refinery's own hall-marked ten tola (TT) bars. Thus the country will for the first time have its own hall-marked TT under the brand name of Zee Gold. For this purpose, the company will be paying 20 per cent royalty to Zee.

Currently, government mints in various places refine gold produced in the country which is of miniscule quantity compared to the 600-tonne plus imported annually.

Says Agee Gold Refinery's chairman and managing director N Dwarkanath, ``Neither the capacity (of government owned mints) nor its quality is up to the mark and there is no refinery here which is able to offer hall-marked purity in India.'' Currently, the bullion buyers have to depend on a handful of overseas brands from among the 63 LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) accredited refineries around the world for their TT bar requirements.

The refinery will thus aim at bridging this gap and refine imported raw gold into TT bars of 99.99 fineness, as is commonly sold in the country. The ZeeGold's TT bars will, for the first time, be hall-marked gold, indicating the assured purity of the gold available in the country. The plant is equipped to cater to a wide range of value added end products like TT and kilo bars, wafers, coins and other intermediates, both gold and silver.

Asked whether country's first private gold refinery will help the bullion buyers to save on their cost of buying hall-marked gold, Dwarkanath said: ``Except for saving on transportation and insurance cost, the price of Indian hall-marked gold will not be much different from the market price. Whether overseas or in India, there is a refinining cost to be paid.''

Agee Gold Refinery would also help in testing the purity of gold which may be deposited under the gold deposit scheme floated since the past more than one year. Till now there is no such facility in the country to melt the gold in its purest form, forcing the gold deposit holders to send such gold outside the country for assaying and melting into bars of 99.99 fineness.Traditionally, around 10 per cent jewellery comes for recycling every year and this figure itself is huge.

According to the company, the Shirpur gold refinery will be India's first refinery with the capacity of refining gold to 99.99 purity. The plant has a capacity to produce 217 tonne of gold and silver each. The first phase of production which is valued at about Rs 10,000 crore, is still going to meet only 25 per cent of the country's annual requirements which are mainly catered to by imports.

A modern and convinient marketing set up has been established using HTE latest technology for immediate order processing. Agee Gold will flash on its web site `' real time rates on the basis of which Zee Gold's designated preferred buyers can make their online spot purchases. Orders will be confirmed online. All these facilities will be exclusively for Zee Gold's preferred buyers and will operate in a unique closed user group.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh who inaugurated the refinery on Monday said the project would usher in a golden era in the industrial history of the State. The inauguration was done in the presence of NCP leader Sharad Pawar, speaker of the state legislative assembly Arun Gujarathi, chairperson of `Agee Gold' Dilip Kumar, filmstar Mohan Lal, Sunil Dutt and several MPs and MLAs. The inauguration was to be done by Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, but he could not attend the ceremony.

Copyright © 2001 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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