Steel minister Virbandhra Singh on building a future for India`s steel industry
Sustainability for the steel industry requires an integrated approach which balances the long-term interest of investors, of the displaced population and of environment. Sustainability also involves optimum utilisation of natural resources such as land, water and mineral resources.
The first step to setting up of mega steel projects involves acquisition of large tracts of land. This has resulted in major conflicts between the investors and the displaced population. Mega projects like that of Posco in Orissa and of ArcelorMittal, which has proposed two units with a capacity of 12 million tonnes each in Orissa and Jharkhand, have been stuck up due to one
reason or the other.
Recently, a group of ministers have proposed that 26 percent of profit of a mining enterprise should be shared among the local population. I have always supported such policies and initiatives which can help reduce tensions between the industry and society.
National Mining Development Corporation’s (NMDC) greenfield steel projects have been able to acquire necessary tracts of land through amicable process and that should act as a model for future projects.
Another serious challenge faced by the Indian steel industry is the long-term availability of iron ore and coking coal. Our stand on the issue is very clear and we are in total support of banning export of iron ore. But it is easier said than done because of many hurdles in the way. At present, a lot of iron ore is being mined and a bulk of it is low grade which is not usable in our steel plants.Therefore, we have to change our technology and imbibe new technology so that we are able to use such ore for our steel industry. And for this reason, we are very keen to have Posco, which is proposing to set up a steel mill, do it with no hurdles on the way as they have the technology to use low grade ore and also the technology to use minimum coking coal. Similarly, we are also going ahead with a joint venture with Posco to put up a plant in Bokaro.
While it is true that adoption of new technology involves financial risk, our plants have recognised the long term potential of these investments. I am happy to note that private sector plants have shown exceptional risk taking abilities to adopt new technologies. At the same time, there is a pressing need for our steel industry to remain mindful of the imperatives of climate change.
It is important to produce steel but it is equally important to preserve the ecology and environment.