Even as it mounts efforts to mark a footprint in mineral-rich Afghanistan, Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) has decided to quadruple its mining capacity. It plans to develop an underground mine beneath the open-cast mine at Malanjkhand. This belt, with the richest extractable copper reserve, contains more than 70 per cent of India’s known reserves.

“While HCL is a monopoly in copper mining in India, since 1982 the company has seen little growth in its ore production. This will our focus area ,” Shakeel Ahmed, HCL chairman and managing director, told The Hindu.

The Rs. 1856.4-crore Malanjkhand underground project is a key component of this strategy, as the residual life of the existing open-cast project runs out in 2018. Post-expansion, Malanjkhand’s capacity would be 5.2 million tonnes against 2 million tonnes now.

The underground project has been won by a consortium led by IVCRL Infrastructure & Projects Ltd. A Ukrainian company and a UK-based company are also members of this consortium. The project is expected to be completed in five years.

Eight projects

While this is the single largest project on the anvil, HCLalso has on hand projects for re-opening of mines, some of which had to be shut down on grounds of viability. HCL is executing as many as eight mining projects at an investment of Rs 3435 crore to enhance its mining output from 3.4 million tonnes to 12.4 million tonnes by 20016-17. Out of these, six have already been awarded.

On the anvil are expansions of existing mines, re-opening of closed mines and optimising operation of existing mines. India has very limited known copper reserves. Domestic production now meets only three per cent of the current demand and augmentation of copper ore resources is considered to be of utmost importance.

“ For HCL, 95 per cent of the value is in production, and there is little in value- addition,” he said.

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