Left with only around 50 million tonne of iron ore reserves in its captive Dalli-Rajhara mines, which according to the company estimates would be entirely used in the next five years, Bhilai Steel Plant had bet on the Rowghat Mines for survival as well as increasing its capacity to 7.5 million tonne a year from 4.2 million tonne at present.
The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) unit was set up in the middle of nowhere only because of the iron ore reserves, and its location makes imports or even supplies from other SAIL mines uneconomical. Bhilai Steel gets Dalli- Rajhara iron ore at Rs 600-650 per tonne and imports would cost ten times more.
Bhilai Steel Plant officials told FE that the Supreme Court gave its final ruling last week on the forestry clearance but getting the environment clearance would be another long drawn process. The Supreme Court ruling has been forwarded to the ministry of environment and forest for the final clearance.
Officials said although the copy of the ruling is yet to come in our hands, we are given to understand that we have crossed a major hurdle. The ministry clearance is only a matter of formality.
The ministry of environment and forest after giving the forestry clearance in around June last year had send it to the Supreme Court Committee for the final consent. The Supreme Court Committees consent will be followed by the environment and forest ministrys final notification.
SAIL officials said that the final notification for the forestry clearance is expected to come within a month.
NK Bindu, Bhilai Steels Executive Director for mining, said out of the total 2028 hectares earmarked for mining in Rowghat, which has an estimated reserve of around 1400 million tonne, Bhilai Steel has applied for 883 hectares of forestry clearance, whose reserves according to conservative estimates are 511 million tonne. Rowghat Ore has a 62% ferrous content.
Iron ore deposits in Rowghat was discovered way back in 1899 and in 1949 Geological Survey of India (GSI) investigated the area and out lined six iron ore deposits A to F. Deposit-F is the largest area divided into seven blocks namely Raodongri, Block-A, Tarhur, Anjrel, Korgaon, Kharkagaon and Takrel.
Bhilai Steel made its first application in 1983 for the entire Rowghat mines and after 13 years in 1996, the ministry of environment and forest granted in principal environmental clearance. In 2000 the ministry indicated that the forestry clearance might be considered if the demand for the area was reduced and an approach for cluster mining was taken.
In 2004 the environment and forest ministry asked BSP to submit fresh application for forestry and environment clearance and BSP after conducting studies by IBM, Central Mines and Research Institute, Zooligical Survey of India, National Environmental Engineering research Institute and others submitted the application in 2006. After the government of Chattisgarh forwarded BSPs proposal for forestry clearance in May 2007 to the environment and forest ministry, the ministry reffered it to the empowered committee of the Supreme Court in around June 2007.