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Lease worry for SAIL

Ranchi, Aug. 13: Steel Authority of India’s worst fears seem to be coming true with the Jharkhand government sitting on extending leases on four of its iron ore mines, one of whose forest clearance will expire midnight tonight.

SAIL apprehends it will have to stall supply of ore to its steel plants in Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand since the state government had not extended the mining leases of Gua, Kiriburu, Meghahatuburu and Chiria mines in iron-rich West Singhbhum district.

While Gua’s forest clearance expired today, leases of the three other mines were to expire soon, said sources in the state mining department, but could not provide the exact dates.

“Technically SAIL shall not carry out any excavation work in Gua as the forest clearance for the area expires today. We are keeping tabs. The state forest and environment department has to monitor the situation,” said West Singhbhum district mining officer Ajit Kumar told The Telegraph.

Sources based at the state forest department said that a notice had been sent to SAIL management for stopping excavation/digging work at from August 14.

State mines secretary Arun was guarded in his comment.

“Any mine can run if it has a valid lease. There exists 42 leases of iron ore in West Singhbhum district, many of them under deemed extension. Excavation from any mine without a lease will be unlawful,” he said, adding that the state mines department had started hearing cases to ensure that the leases were validated as per Justice M B Shah Commission report.

Two senior SAIL officials, director (technical) S. S. Mohanty and director (raw materials and logistics) K.Maity met chief minister Hemant Soren last week, requesting him to extend the leases of the four mines in West Singhbhum district.

A SAIL spokesperson from its raw materials division in Calcutta said over telephone that they were hopeful and were still waiting for a positive reply from the state government.

In Bokaro, company sources claimed, the local steel plant management had started stocking raw material, apprehending that mining activity in all the four mines of the West Singhbhum would come to a halt in days to come.

“Unless the leases were renewed, we have enough ore to last us for a few weeks only,” claimed a senior official.

All SAIL plants in eastern India will suffer if supply of ore is disrupted. These include Bokaro Steel Plant (Jharkhand), Rourkela Steel Plant (Odisha), Durgapur Steel Plant and IISCO Steel Plant (Bengal).

Moreover it would also hamper SAIL’s avowed mission to achieve an annual production target of 24MT, compared to the 13MT it is producing now.