Thursday, September 28, 2006

To Export Or Not To Export Iron Ore

For India racing to become a super economic power, fast expansion of steel manufacturing capacity has become an urgent necessity. The National steel Policy aims at a production capacity of 100 million tonnes by 2019-20 but some estimate it to reach 150 million tonnes the way new steel projects including those of the international giants like Arcelor-Mittal and Posco are springing up. Simple arithmetic puts the iron ore requirement at 240 million tonnes per annum. The estimated iron ore reserve in India is around 13 billion tonnes.
Another study puts only 6.311 billion tonnes are proven reserves and a balance 17.27 billion tonnes are probable and possible reserves. Exports from India have quietly risen to 90 million tonnes per annum. Some are apprehensive that iron ores may not last even for 30 years. One would be inclined to infer from the above that iron ore exports should be stopped. An expert 'Hoda committee' has poured oil over the flames by suggesting that export of iron ores should continue.
There are two schools of thoughts prevailing on the issue.On the face of it, exporting scarce raw materials without value addition does not make much sense. The Steel Ministry supporting the interest of the steel manufacturers wants the exports to be phased out in next 15 years. It has now got a political backing with CM, West Bengal openly criticising the export of iron ore.On the other side of the battle-lines are Mining and Commerce ministry officials. This tug-of-war will finally determine the future of Steel industry in India. Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) released a paper recently titled "Indian iron ore: Where are we heading".
Anyone willing to hazard a guess?

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