Green nod crucial to ensure iron ore supply

SAIL may face iron ore shortage, if the country’s largest steel producer cannot resume production by January, at its 2.4 million tonnes a year Durgaiburu mine in Jharkhand.

It is the oldest and largest mechanised (1,443 hectare) mine of the Gua complex in West Singhbum district. It was set for four-fold capacity expansion but remains closed for the past 17 months in the absence of environmental clearance.

Stocks depletion

According to sources, the situation at present has become alarming in view of serious depletion of ore stock pile.

“SAIL does generate great deal of ore surpluses from its captive mines spread across Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Occasional short falls are generally met by NMDC. But this year, when Gua is completely out of production, SAIL may fall short in meeting the combined demand of all its plants,” said a Steel Ministry source.

SAIL management without playing down the gravity of the possible scenario hinted at serious engagement in averting the problem. In response to Business Line query, SAIL CMD C.S. Verma, sounded optimistic of solving the knotty problem shortly. “There may be good news in the next few weeks,” he said.

Closed since June 15 last year, the mine employs around 550 regular workers and about 500 contract labourers. Three smaller mines of SAIL in the same complex -- Jhillingburu-I (210 ha), Jhillingburu-II (36 ha) and Topailore (14 ha) — are also out of operation for lack of Ministry of Environment and Forests approvals.

It is understood, that the Ministry of Environment has kept Durgaiburu environment clearance (EC) on hold since January 27 as forest clearance was not ready then. The MoEF gave its forest clearance nod on August 14. “But EC has not been issued,” a Steel Ministry source said.

Smaller mines

Meanwhile, SAIL has assigned Mecon to work on the Environment Management Plan for the three smaller mines of the complex. After the stipulated three-month data collection since September at the area, Mecon would start the analytical work in December.

SAIL expects to hold public hearing in February next year. “If things go right, the three could resume operation early next fiscal,” a source said.

jayanta.mallick@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 14, 2012)
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