Bangalore, Jan 29: Karnataka will hasten the process of issuing leases to mine iron ore in the mineral-rich districts to improve the raw material supply to the steel industry, a top official said Wednesday.
“We have decided to give soon new mining leases to achieve the 30 million tonnes of iron ore annual production set by the Supreme Court earlier and clarified Monday,” Chief Secretary Kaushik Mukherjee said at a trade meet here.
Though the apex court decided to hear Feb 24 the government’s petition to raise the annual iron ore production to 40 million tonnes, a three-judge bench headed by Justice A.K. Patnaik directed the government to allow mining to achieve the 30 million tonnes target.
The apex court had fixed the target on the recommendations of a central empowering committee set up by it to look into the environmental impact of mining on ecology. It was also meant to regulate the sector in view of the multi-crore mining scam in the state in the last decade.
“We will submit a detailed action plan to the Supreme Court before our petition comes for hearing (Feb 24) on how we propose to achieve the production target keeping in view the CEC guidelines on rehabilitation and resettlement plans,” Mukherjee said at the valedictory session of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) partnership summit here.
The Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturers Association discussed the issue with Mukherjee and Mines Secretary Tushar Girinath at the trade event.
The steel industry in Karnataka, which has a combined installed capacity of 19 million tonnes output annually, requires about 40 million tonnes of iron ore per annum as raw material.
With the apex court banning mining in the state since July 2011, the steel industry has been unable to utilise fully its installed production capacity due to shortage of iron ore, whose output is around 18 million tonnes.
Nine nine million tonnes of this comes from the state-run National Mineral Development Corp (NDMC) in Bellary district, 330 km from Bangalore.
“The mines secretary (Girinath) has agreed to meet us Feb 3 to sort out pending issues for resuming mining permits as we have sought clearances for six leases to scale up production to 22 million tonnes over the next three months,” Association representative and JSW Steel deputy managing director Vinod Nowal told reporters later.
“We have told the government to issue fresh leases by next month so as to start mining operations at the earliest,” Nowal said.
The acute shortage of iron ore has affected blast furnaces, pig iron and sponge iron plans besides the integrated steel plants.