SAIL negotiating overseas coal mining rights

Thursday, 27 May 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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RAIPUR: The Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) is in the process of acquiring mining rights in six coal belts in the US, Canada and Australia to shore up coal reserves for its Bhilai plant in Chhattisgarh.

The Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP), the most profitable unit of government-owned SAIL, has been facing a recurring coal crisis and wants the rights to maintain its pace of production.

Highly placed sources in BSP, which was commissioned in 1959, said SAIL had located six best coal sites in Australia, Canada and the US and the deal for a joint venture could be firmed up within three months.

The plant had been facing a severe shortage of coal recently and was forced to shut down several blast furnace units and reduce coal supply to push oven units.

"We are in a process of bagging coal mining rights in certain countries but we are zeroing in on Australia as we have good understanding with companies there. Their coal quality is also much better than others and shipping is cheaper and easier," a senior BSP official said.

"The dialogue for bagging coal ownership rights in a joint venture with local companies is in a final phase the SAIL management has informed us recently. The central government has already asked SAIL to go ahead with its overseas mining rights mission," the official said.

Sources said SAIL stepped up moves to acquire coal mining rights overseas after the BSP management placed an urgent request in March when production had to be slashed by over 30 percent.

The plant, which recorded its best ever profit of 210 billion during the financial year 2003-04, has been battling hard to keep its blast furnace and push oven units functioning.

Source: IANS
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