SAIL chairman visits Chiria; asserts legitimate right

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Chiria/Ranchi, May 1: Close on the heels of the Centre's strong plea to the Jharkhand government to quickly resolve the Chiria mines crisis, SAIL has asserted its 'legitimate' claim over these and said it was not bothered as to who the state government favoured.

In a veiled referrence to steel major Arcelor Mittal setting its eyes on Chiria, one of the world's richest iron ore reserves, Steel Authority of India Limited Chairman Sushil K Roongta made no bone to say, ''those who seek such mines can go elsewhere''.

During his brief, significant and maiden visit here yesterday, Mr Roogta was asked if he was bothered by Jharkhand's reported inclination towards the Mittal group.

The chairman said, ''I do not know who is keen or not...But SAIL will not leave any stone unturned to assert its legitimate claim.'' Meanwhile, in Ranchi, Chief Minister Madhu Koda today did not budge from the government's earlier stand saying, ''we are ready to renew the lease agreement over Chiria as per SAIL's requirement. And at the same time we want to encourage investors too who want to set up industries in Jharkhand.'' The SAIL chairman's airdashing to Chiria assumed significance as on April 22, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Steel Minister Ramvilas Paswan came to Bokaro Steel Plant to lay the foundation for modernisation and expansion of its unit. Mr Paswan asked the state government to solve the crisis as soon as possible.

Mr Roogta said SAIL had expansion plan for which ''we need iron ore...Chiria can fulfil our demand''.

Asked if SAIL favoured out of court settlement, Mr Roongta said, ''the Centre made a strong plea to the state government and our view point has been clearly expressed in this regard.

''I am ready to have dialogue with the chief minister to sort out our problems,'' he said.

However. the SAIL chairman's hint at the out of court settlement was tinged with steely resolve as he said, ''though I cannot speculate...we deserve renewal of lease''.

''We are in a hurry to set up mechanised mining,'' he said.

When the chief minister's reaction was sought, Mr Koda said the government and SAIL often held meetings and hoped that through dialogue a solution would be found.

Regarding SAIL's 'legitimate' claim over Chiria, he said ''adhikar (right) could be realised through dialogue only''.

On the Centre's decision to impose 15 per cent export tax on steel, the SAIL chairman said the company shared concern with the government and hoped that it would help curb rise in steel price. Regarding SAIL's promise made to hold steel price, he said the company would review the situation after the next three months. Out of six leases--Ajitaburu, Budaburu, Sakrilaturu, Dhovil, Ankua and Jatiburu in Chiria, SAIL and the state government had locked their horns over Ajitaburu and Sukrilatur.

Other mines under SAIL include Dwargaiburu, Jhilingburu I and II, Topailore in Gua besides lease I, II and III in Kiriburu.

Mr Roogta said for expansion and projects SAIL had earmarked Rs 54,000 crore for Bokaro Steel Plant, Durgapur, Bhillai and Rourkela.

Chiria is estimated to have iron ore reserves of three billion tonnes though insiders in SAIL felt it should not be more than two billion tonnes.

UNI

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