New Delhi, Nov. 19: Maoist stronghold Rowghat in Chhattisgarh has become a place of refuge for Steel Authority of India (SAIL).
The steel PSU is confronting an acute iron ore shortage, and it is banking on the 511-million-tonne reserves at Rowghat — so much so it is now building barracks for about 4,000 CRPF personnel to man the scarce resource.
SAIL has been forced to go in for the costly security cover to keep iron ore flowing to its steel mills, after stalled forest clearances shut down two of its top mines — Bolani in Odisha and Gua in Jharkhand.
Of the 18-19mt of iron ore the steel giant requires for its factories at Bhilai, Rourkella, Bokaro, Burnpur, Durgapur and Salem, some 7 million tonnes used to come from these two shut mines.
The shortfall, which is not yet pinching as SAIL has some stocks at Bolani and Guaas well as at factories, could translate into costly imports in the year ahead unless either Rowghat starts producing or the shut mines restart.
The CRPF forces who are to be deployed had demanded that barracks be built for them before they were sent to protect the mine. However, in a chicken-and-egg situation, contractors have asked for at least one battalion to be posted to guard those who build the barracks. So, a battalion of CRPF paramilitary forces has already been deployed at the building site.
Rowghat has long been used by the Maoist groups as a base for operations in the tribal state. SAIL’s Rowghat mining area is in Malta reserve forest area, a place forest department officials have deserted long back. The mine lease is spread over seven blocks — Raodongri, Block-A, Tarhur Anjrel, Korgaon, Khargaon and Takrel.
The forces would guard not only the mines which will supply up to 14mt per annum of iron ore to Bhilai steel plant but also a new railway line —Dalli-Rajhara-Rowghat-Jagdalpur — to be built by the Railways, NMDC and the Chhattisgarh government on a cost-sharing basis.