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Duty check on ore exports

Calcutta, Nov. 22: The Centre is considering the possibility of levying a duty on iron ore exports to restrict the outflow of the mineral resource.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has voiced his concern regarding iron ore exports, lending credence to the demand of the Tatas and the Jindals, who want the ore to be used only within the country.

Anwarul Hoda, who headed the committee set up by the Centre to formulate a national mineral policy, said the Planning Commission has mooted the idea of imposing export duty on iron ore to the ministry.

Hoda was in the city to attend the International Mining and Machinery Exhibition (IMME) organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

During the inaugural address, the chief minister again voiced his concern over iron ore exports.

“I was listening carefully to Hoda’s speech. I request him to give a serious thought to it. The Centre must come out with a clear policy. States should not have the freedom on export,” Bhattacharjee said.

The chief minister’s concern stems from the fact that states lacking iron ore reserves like Bengal have lost out on big steel mill investments to ore-rich states like Jharkhand and Orissa.

The Jindals had to shift their project to Jharkhand after the neighbouring state denied ore to the Bengal project.

Bengal believes there will be enough ore for all states if export is stopped.

The Hoda committee had recommended duty on rich quality iron ore (ferrous content over 65 per cent).

Today, Hoda said a blanket ban might not be the best solution in a liberalised economy. He said the ministry could also consider duty on low-grade ores.

“There can be a duty to the satisfaction of steel companies,” he said on the sidelines of the exhibition.

Last year, India exported 90 million tonnes of ore with 85 per cent having a ferrous content of 62-63 per cent. If duty is imposed only on 65 per cent and above, the whole effort would be wasted, a steel industry executive said.

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