`No fear over iron ore exports'

Special Correspondent

Adverse impact on domestic supply ruled out

NEW DELHI: The Central Government on Wednesday said the country had adequate reserves of iron ore to meet export commitments and domestic demand well into the future. Responding to concerns about depleting iron ore reserves due to burgeoning exports, Minister of State for Commerce, Jairam Ramesh, told the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour that there should be "no fear" that the Government was exporting ore at the cost of domestic industry.

Responding to K. Chandra Pillai's (Communist Party of India-Marxist) query about whether exports would hamper the indigenous steel industry in the long-run, Mr. Ramesh said of the 155 million tonnes of iron ore mined last fiscal, 89 million tonnes was exported and there was a stockpile of eight million tonnes after meeting the domestic demand. By 2019-20, exports would stabilise at 100 million tonnes while the total requirement would be 190 million tonnes.

However, he did not see any adverse impact on the reserves because in the last 25 years "not characterised by aggressive exploration," eight billion tonnes of reserves were discovered. With the help of more modern techniques of prospecting, exploration and beneficiation, ore reserves would only go up, he contended.

The proportion of exports to total production was not alarming because Australia and Brazil exported a higher proportion of iron ore. Responding to queries whether the Government was considering banning of exports, Mr. Ramesh underlined the importance of this sector. Six states, including Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Goa, depended on iron ore mining for developing their backward areas. It also provided direct and indirect employment to 15 lakh people.

Most of the exported ore comprised concentrates and fines while lumps were kept for domestic consumption. "Fines is an inevitable product of mining and is an environmental hazard. The only option is to export. There should be no fears that we are exporting iron ore to the detriment of domestic consumption," he said.