Karnataka steel industry says mining ban is death knell for sector

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Steel and allied industries in Karnataka on Wednesday expressed apprehensions that the industry would come to a standstill if iron ore mining is banned in Tumkur and Chitradurga districts as recommended by the Supreme Court-appointed panel. 

The industry is already facing a severe paucity of the raw material after the apex court banned mining in the Bellary-Hospet region. 

"At this crucial juncture, if the supplies from Chitradurga and Tumkur are also disrupted, then it would be the last nail in the coffin for the steel sector in Karnataka," Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce said in a statement. 

It added that "it will be a big blow for the steel sector as there is no other option than closing down the plants completely". 

The issue has come up following a recent report of Central Empowered Committee that recommended a ban on mining in Chitradurga and Tumkur. It said there was loss of forest land due to illegal mining and excessive production. 

"This court's July 29 order, by which the mining operations have been suspended (in Bellary), may be extended in respect of the mining leases in districts of Tumkur and Chitradurga," the report said. 

The report gave findings of about 55 mining leases in Tumkur and about 18 mining leases in 687 hectare of which 500 hectare lies in the forest land in Chitradurga. 

In its July 29 order, the apex court had banned mining in Bellary due to increasing environmental degradation of the area. 

In its subsequent hearing on August 5, the Supreme Court provided a partial relief by allowing state-run NMDCto mine one million tonnes of iron ore per month (or 12MT a year) in Bellary region. 

However, the Bangalore Chamber of Commerce said that NMDC has not been able meet even the one million tonne supply. 

"It may take sufficiently long time for NMDC to reach the assured supply of 33,000 tones per day (or one million tonnes per month). The current supplies by NMDC are only in the range of 21,000 to 22,000 tonnes per day as against the industry requirement of 1,04,000 tonnes per day," the statement said. 

Acknowledging that production has not been ramped up to the desired levels, NMDC Chairman Rana Som said the company will achieve production of one million tonnes by month end. 

"This month, the production (of iron ore) from Bellary may be little less than one million tonnes as the apex court order came in first week of the month. But, it will surely be 1 MT from September onwards," NMDC Chairman Rana Som said.

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