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Steel future in Chiria reserves

Bokaro, Feb. 11: Supply of iron ore from the Chiria mines will determine if India can become the number two steel producer in the world by 2015, declared Union steel secretary R.S. Pandey.

On a two-day visit to the steel city, Pandey today told newspersons that talks with the state government were in the final stages and he was hopeful that SAIL would be able to bank on Chiria to fuel its expansion plans.

The per capita consumption of steel in India, at just about 38 kg, is far below the figure for global leaders at 400 kg, pointed out Pandey. But the demand for steel is increasing fast and although SAIL units have been set a target of 7 per cent growth, they are actually growing at 14 per cent, said the steel secretary.

Pandey was hopeful that India would be able to meet the steel production target of 80 million tonnes by 2012.

Chiria, pointed out Pandey, has been supplying iron ore to both Burnpur and Bokaro and the expansion plans of both will suffer, he acknowledged, if the Jharkhand government has its way in getting judicial approval of its decision to cancel IISCO’s mining lease over Chiria.

With the merger of IISCO with SAIL, the latter hoped to gain access to the rich and abundant reserves of high-quality iron ore in the Chiria mines of West Singhbhum.

The previous NDA government in the state had cancelled the IISCO lease and offered Chiria to other players who were eager to set up greenfield projects.

“We are having talks with the state government; they are aware of our problems and are cooperating as best as they can,” said an evasive secretary, when quizzed on the attitude of the government. While the UPA government in the state is more favourably inclined towards the public sector steel major, there is mounting pressure from other producers to get access to Chiria.

With a housing boom in the country and better highways and roads coming up, Pandey hoped, the demand for steel would grow and SAIL would remain the leader in the domestic market.

BSL managing director V.K. Srivastav announced that Bokaro Steel is committed to spend 2 per cent of its profit annually, which came to around Rs 10 crore last year, to develop places around Bokaro.

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