The Karnataka Iron and Steel Manufacturers’ Association (KISMA), the body that represents the interests of pellet and steel makers in Karnataka, has urged the State government to expedite the process of restoring mining activity in Category A and B mines. Mining was banned by the Supreme Court until compliance with environmental clearances and statutory regulations.
A KISMA delegation, led by Seshagiri Rao, Joint Managing Director, JSW Steel, met Chief Secretary S.V. Ranganath and Secretary, Union Ministry of Steel, and submitted a memorandum on Tuesday, urging the speedy resumption of mining activity. The KISMA also asked the State government to facilitate allocation of captive mines, and ensure “long-term linkages” of raw material to the industry, and to expedite resumption of mining operations at the earliest. It also sought the opening of Category C mines, which the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee had categorised as the worst offenders.
The KISMA said only three Category A and A1 mines, with a combined capacity of 1.4 million tonnes per annum, have started operations since the Supreme Court, in April 2012, allowed these two categories to restart mining activity. It contended that the “roadmap” for the opening of B Category mines is “unclear” and urged to “expedite” the process of renewing leases that had lapsed.
The industry body claimed that the main source of supply, in the wake of the mining ban, has been the NMDC, which had been allowed by the Supreme Court to mine one million tonnes per month. However, the public sector company has never reached this ceiling, it noted, pointing out that in October 2012, the NMDC only mined 0.45 million tonnes of ore. It pointed out that while the industry in the State requires 33 million tonnes of ore — running at 80 to 85 per cent capacity — the NMDC is likely to supply only about 20 million tonnes a year.
Though the Supreme Court has allowed the NMDC to produce one million tonnes per month, it had never achieved so much in any month so far. Instead, its production had further come down to around 4,50,000 tonnes in October 2012 though its lumps e-auction prices almost doubled.
“The future of the steel industry is very bleak,” the KISMA contended, and warned that many units in the State may be forced to shut down soon.