Jharkhand asked to end row over iron ore mines

April 24th, 2008 - 11:41 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Nityanand Shukla
Ranchi, April 24 (IANS) A dispute over the Chiria iron ore mines in mineral-rich Jharkhand has left hanging several major steel projects, among which two of them promise to produce an estimated 24 million tonnes of the commodity annually. Arcelor-Mittal and the state-run Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), among others, want access to the mines to set up their greenfield projects to collectively manufacture 12 million tonnes each of steel per annum.

The central government wants the state government to end the dispute and sanction some iron ore for the projects, since the Chiria mines have proven reserves of over 2.4 million tonnes, but the state government says it has other commitments.

The dispute is pending with the Jharkhand High Court. The state government wants the mines back after one of the centre’s steel companies - which was given access to the iron ore from there - was merged with SAIL a few years ago.

“I request the Jharkhand chief minister (Madhu Koda) with folded hands to share the iron ore from Chiria mines so that SAIL can set up its 12 million tonne steel plant,” Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said in Bokaro Tuesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Koda were among those present at the event, which was primarily organised to launch an expansion project for the Bokaro unit of SAIL.

“For the last two years my ministry has been trying to clear the legal dispute,” Paswan said, referring to an agreement last year where the Jharkhand government had had agreed to share one billion tonnes of ore with the union steel ministry.

“This way, SAIL can set up its 12 million tonne steel plant, while the Jharkhand government can also lease out the iron ore mines to the private sector to set up steel plants,” he said.

While Koda did not respond, a state government official later told IANS that if the iron ore is given to the central government, the state will not be able to honour the various pacts with other steel producers.

The state government, the official explained, has pacts with more than 55 firms in the steel, mining and power sectors, including Arcelor- Mittal, Tata Steel, Jindal Steel, Essar and others.

“Our government will need some six billion tonnes of iron ore to translate these memoranda of understanding into reality. Minus Chiria, Jharkhand has less than one billion tonnes of iron ore mines,” he explained.

Against a proven deposit of 3.4 billion tonnes of iron ore at Chiria, the union steel ministry has demanded one billion tonnes of iron ore. Arcelor-Mittal wants only 600 million tonnes for 30 years to set up its project in the state.

The industry hopes the dispute will be resolved soon as the Chiria mines have deposits that can potentially translate into 40 million tonnes of steel, against the backdrop of a growing demand-supply gap.

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