Union Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh on Wednesday demanded raising of export duty on iron ore in an effort to rein in the spiralling prices and increase domestic availability of the product.

Addressing a conference on “Challenges for Indian steel industry in infrastructure and resources” organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here, Mr. Singh said apart from the option of raising the export duty, quantitative restrictions on exports could be imposed, it said. “The government will have to look at the question of iron ore exports differently by bringing in definite deterrence. This may be in the form of either prohibitive duty or quantitative restrictions,” he said.

At present, iron ore lumps attract an export duty of 15 per cent and iron ore fines a duty of 5 per cent. ``The government recently had taken a few policy measures to discourage avoidable exports of iron ore and consequently raised domestic availability by increasing the export duty on lump ores to 15 per cent,” the Steel Minister said.

He said in order to ensure supply of vital inputs for steel like iron ore and coking coal, the Ministry was in close contact with the Ministry of Mines in formulating a new Mining Policy. A new Mining Policy Bill will be presented for Parliamentary approval soon. Iron ore and coking coal prices have surged as much as 90 per cent compared to the year-ago period, adding to the input cost of steel makers.

Mr. Singh regretted that Indian companies, particularly those in the public sector, had lagged behind in investment in mining assets as they possibly woke up later to the harsh reality that supply of coking coal could take such a dimension. “It is time for the Indian steel and mining companies, whether in the public or private sector, to look for opportunities overseas more seriously,” he said. Steel Secretary Atul Chaturvedi said land acquisition for steel projects continued to pose a major challenge and asked industry players to consider using the large land mass that was now available with the closed units. “I have asked the Ministry of Heavy Industry to map out such land masses and put the information on their website for the benefit of prospective investors. I hope FICCI will coordinate with the Ministry of Heavy Industry to take the process forward,” he said.

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