Govt should take up Chiria mines issue as national interest

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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) The government should accord highest priority to the issue of grant or renewal of Chiria iron ore mining lease to the public sector Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) as it was ''a matter of national interest'', says a parliamentary panel.

According to the 26th report of the Committee on Public Undertakings on SAIL tabled in the Lok Sabha, SAIL has got a legitimate case for retaining Chiria iron ore mines as it has already developed various infrastructure there, besides absorbing an accumulated loss of Rs 910 crore during the amalgamation of Indian Iron and Steel Company (IISCO) in 2005.

Referring to the long-pending issue of grant or renewal of Chiria iron ore mining lease to SAIL, it noted that the matter was sub judice.

However, efforts were on by the Steel Ministry for an amicable solution with the Jharkhand government which had some reservations about handing over the lease, but it had not yielded positive results.

Noting that boom in the steel sector had made grants or renewal a complex issue due to conflicting interests between stake holders, the committee chaired by Mr Rupchand Pal said it was of the view that there should be a clear national policy to address concerns of the stakeholders, particularly the producers contributing to the national economy.

It said the public sector behemoth had turned into a profitable company since 2003-04 and had actually made a profit of Rs 6,202 crore in 2006-07 due largely to availability of cheap iron ore from captive mines.

Worried about the profitability of SAIL if it had to source iron ore at international prices, the panel recommended that SAIL should prepare itself for such an eventuality rather than be caught napping.

Referring to projects under execution being delayed, it suggested that the issue of timely delivery of equipment and handing over of sites be taken up with the suppliers concerned at different levels, failing which suitable deterrent measures be incoporated into the agreements with the suppliers to avoid delays.

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