Raw material shortage, land acquisition, key concerns of SteelMin

Acute shortage of raw material in plants, roadblocks in the land acquisition process hampering Greenfield expansion of State-owned entities and problems arising from import of iron ore are some of the key concerns which the Steel Ministry officials have earmarked before the new minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

According to official sources, in a presentation made before Tomar, who took charge of the ministry last week, top Steel Ministry officials briefed him about the global steel scenario, and the concerns being faced by PSUs which come under their jurisdiction.

The Minister, sources added, has asked his officials to brief him separately on all the three PSUs which come under the Steel Ministry, namely Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) and NMDC. Subsequently, the presentations on all the three companies will be made before the minister.

Owing to ban on iron ore mining in Goa and Karnataka, as well as the recent Supreme Court directive ordering shutting down of mines involved in illegal mining in Odisha, miners – both public as well as private – have been facing acute shortage of raw material, mainly iron ore.

Sources said that though bans imposed by the SC in Goa and Karnataka are gradually being removed in a phased manner, recent one imposed on mines in Odisha has hit miners hard.

Mines owned by SAIL and Tata Steel in Odisha have been hit as operations in them have been suspended, sources said.

The apex court had on May 16, while ordering closure of mines involved in illegal mining in Odisha, imposed restrictions on operations of 26 mines, mainly those whose leases had not been renewed since decades.

Subsequently a high-powered committee of the State Government had suggested renewal of leases of 13 out of these 26 mines, but only after they fulfilled three conditions – paying the penalty for excessive mining, getting permission for total diversion of the forest land within the lease area, and seeking clearance for using tribal land.

Official sources said that though some mines may reopen, the overall problem of raw material remains and it has gradually become a major issue for State-owned companies like SAIL.

Land acquisition is another issue which the Steel Ministry has been facing as owing to local as well as law and order factors, seeking land for Greenfield expansion of PSUs has become a problem.

Also, delay in environmental and forest clearance of projects belonging to SAIL and RINL has hit output of these companies.

On top of this, the import of cheap raw material from countries, mainly China, has also proved to be a major headache for the Steel Ministry.

Industry sources said that despite the fact that India has abundant stock of iron ore, the Mines Ministry’s insistence of exporting iron ore has led to greater dependence on imports, which in turn has hurt the interest of domestic steel industry.

Iron ore export being a bone of contention between Steel and Mines Ministries, Tomar, who is the minister for both the departments, had last week assured that all contentious issues between the two ministries will be looked into and resolved by creating better synergy between them.

The minister is also learnt to have conveyed to the Steel Ministry officials that being a PSU-centric department, it should not worry about any external pressures and continue to function independently.

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