India’s largest steelmaker SAIL is keen to cut down its dependence on Australian firm BHP Billiton for coking coal import and is readying a Plan B with countries like South Africa and Canada on mind. “SAIL is a buyer of around 12 million tonnes (mt). Out of this, 9-10 mt come from Australia (BHP Billiton). The supply by BHP is fluctuating. Sometimes it is not able to supply on time. As a result, SAIL is looking at other options,” an official in the know said. SAIL, he said, is exploring options of importing metallurgical coal from nations like South Africa and Canada, the official said. “Recently, some of the companies from South Africa and Canada met a senior official in the steel ministry on the issue,” the official said further.
An e-mail query sent to BHP Billiton went unanswered by the time of filing this report. Other than Australia, SAIL sources coking coal from countries like New Zealand, Mozambique and the US. In 2017-18, the state-owned company is planning to import around 10-12 mt of coking coal, a vital ingredient in the steel-making process. SAIL happens to be a major customer of CIL’s metallurgical coal too. In January, CIL arm Bharat Coking Coal had raised the price of coking coal by about 20 per cent. Another subsidiary Central Coalfields went for a similar hike this month.