The availability of coking coal is a major challenge for the domestic steel sector and the industry should collaborate with eminent institutions like IITs to undertake research to find alternate solutions, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal said on Tuesday.
The industry needs to become self-reliant on coking coal to remove India’s dependency on a few countries for the key raw material for steel makers, he added.
“Coking coal is a matter of concern for the industry. We can look at investments and alternatives. You can find solutions for its alternatives. I would urge the industry to research with our IITs or the Indian Institute of Science. It is the need of the hour to become self-sufficient,” Goyal said here at a steel conclave.
The government is preparing a ‘coking coal mission’ to diversify the sources of key steel-making raw material, for which the country is heavily dependent on imports.
India imports around 90 per cent of its coking coal requirement. Coal with high ash content is not suitable for steel making through the blast furnace route.
At present, India imports coking coal from countries like Australia, South Africa, Canada, and the US. The logistic costs from these distant nations add to the input cost of the steel players.
Goyal also said that the steel industry should make the “best” use of the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) and look at capturing new opportunities there.
Under the agreement, steel exports to Australia will become duty-free.
He added that the sector contributes significantly to export earnings.
The industry has significant growth potential and urged them to achieve the target of 300 million tonnes by 2030, he said, adding that with large investments coming in future, the sector will continue to grow.
He also said that while many other countries, which are large producers of steel, are facing severe stress, India has a huge opportunity in terms of a large domestic market, cost competitiveness, modern tech, a wide range of products and domestic iron ore availability.
The government is working with other countries to explore more market opportunities for our manufacturers, particularly those industries, which are competitive, globally relevant and have high-quality standards.
On the withdrawal of export duty on steel and various steel products, Goyal explained that the duty was imposed as a temporary measure to maintain price stability and maintain growth momentum in the country.
Further, the minister stated that India’s per capita consumption of steel is much below the world average and urged the industry to aspire for at least “3X” growth to reach the global average.
The rising EV (electric vehicles) auto market coupled with increasing levels of prosperity will translate into a potential business for the steel and aluminium industry, he added.
The minister also advised the industry to undertake collective research in the area of sustainability to reduce carbon footprint.
“This will also help Indian steel to get a priority over other countries and capture bigger markets and get better value for sustainable steel,” he said.
He urged captains of the industry to deliberate and work out a mechanism to support small manufacturers and ensure that withdrawal of export duties on steel does not hurt small manufacturers.