Mineral output, especially iron ore, has been falling in recent years

The crisis-hit mining industry will inaugurate a three-day annual convention and trade show here on Thursday amid hopes of favourable policy changes.

The country faces an import trap as its mineral output, especially iron ore, has been falling in the recent years owing to restrictive mining and export policies besides vested interests, said H.C. Daga, president of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries or FIMI, here on Wednesday.

The industry will continue to press the government for supportive measures that include export duty cut, Mr. Daga told a news conference.

Secretary to Union Mines Ministry R.H. Khwaja is slated to inaugurate the fourth edition of the event, Mining Mazma 2013. The Ministry is a sponsor.

Mr. Daga said that despite vast mineral reserves in the country, no new mine of any metal has been opened in the last 20 years.

The present low per-capita consumption may increase four-fold in 15 years and warrants steady exploration.

However, “the slow pace of exploration of our mineral resources is a matter of concern. This calls for a larger role for private sector investment in exploration and mining,” he said.

With the right support, the sector can help wipe out Rs. 10,000 crore of the Rs. 70,000-crore current account deficit facing the country, he said.

According to FIMI Secretary General R.K. Sharma, a million direct and indirect jobs have been lost due to policies that partially or fully shut iron ore mining in Karnataka and Goa. Iron ore output fell from 222 million tonnes in 2009-10 to about 135 million tonnes in 2012-13. In these four years, exports, too, he said, dropped from nearly $ 10 billion to $ 1.8 billion now.

He said that fears of ore depletion were unfounded; iron ore-rich Goa had belied projections in 1961 that its reserves would last only 25 years. In 2010, the Indian Bureau of Mines estimated its reserves at 927 million tonnes. Likewise, in Karnataka, “billions of tonnes of new discovery is possible. The resources in Chitradurga and Tumkur have gone up many times,” he said.

The country should focus on precious and non-ferrous minerals and judiciously tap the diamond deposit found in Bunder in Madhya Pradesh, he said.

General Sharma said that State governments are yet to clear 65,000 applications related to various phases of mining and exploration. The pending applications are for reconnaissance permits, prospecting licences and mining leases. He said that the “casual attitude” of the States towards mining was hurting the industry and adding to its uncertainties.

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