KOLKATA (miningweekly.com) - The Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) was seeking security assistance from the Indian government’s federal paramilitary forces as a condition for restarting the development of the 500-million-ton Rowghat iron-ore reserves in the central Indian province of Chhattisgarh.
Confirming the development, a SAIL official said that the company had held talks with the Home Ministry seeking the deployment of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at Rowghat where development of the reserves had been halted in the face of threats and violence by ultraleft-wing extremists.
Large contingents of CRPF personnel were already engaged in fighting the extremists in several eastern and central Indian provinces, including Chhattisgarh.
SAIL, the country’s largest integrated steel producer, planned an investment of $600-million to develop the Rowghat reserves to produce 14-million tons a year of ore. Production had been scheduled to start in 2015, but the company temporarily scrapped the project last year following blockades at the project site by extremists, which drove out contractors and vendors.
However, no new timeline for completion of the project had been set and any new schedule would depend on the Home Ministry’s response to the request for security from paramiliatry forces, company officials said.
The possibility of contract mining for Rowghat would also be considered once security issues were sorted out, the officials said.
Earlier this year, SAIL hosted a preliminary conference seeking contract miners. The event was attended by 25 Indian and international mining companies who were keen to develop the reserve based on 100% offtake by SAIL, at prescribed prices.
The Rowghat reserves were a critical raw material source for SAIL’s Bhilai steel plant, in Chhattisgarh, where production is being expanded from 3.7-million tons a year to six-million tons a year. The plant was currently fed by the company’s mine at Dalli Rajhara which supplies nine-million tons a year of ore but reserves here are fast being depleted and would last for another five to six years at the most.