WORLD NEWS TOMORROW –  New Delhi: A SAIL-led consortium of leading Indian steel and mining firms plan to invest $75 million in first phase for the development of Hajigak iron ore mines in Afghanistan. The consortium had won the mining rights for three iron ore mines in the war-ravaged country in November last year through an international bidding. The three blocks are said to contain 1.28 billion tonnes of rich reserves.

“In first phase, it will be $75 million and will be met by consortium members. The first phase will be prospecting of the iron ore mines and would take about two and half years time (to complete),” SAIL Chairman C S Verma said here, while announcing company’s first quarter results.

Besides SAIL, other members of the consortium include state-owned NMDC and RINL and private sector steel players — JSW, JSW Ispat, Jindal Steel and Power, and Monnet Ispat and Energy.

SAIL has the maximum 20 per cent stake in the venture, while NMDC and RINL hold 18 per cent each. Private players JSW Steel and JSPL hold 16 per cent each, while JSW Ispat and Monnet have 8 per cent and 4 per cent stakes respectively.

The Indian consortium is now looking to sign the final agreements to move ahead with the project development in the war-raved country, Verma said, adding the consortium had a final round of discussions recently with the Afghan government and all issues have been sorted out.

Besides developing iron ore mines, the project development plan includes setting up of a 6 million tonnes per annum steel plant, an 800 MW power plant and building necessary infrastructure at a total cost of $10.8 billion.

However, construction of steel plant is subject to Afghan government making available linkages for coking coal and limestone.

“No, there is no coal block. We have demanded for coal blocks allocation. It is necessary to set up the steel plant,” Verma said.

After winning the bid in November last year, the consortium had sought Indian government’s help in funding the huge total project cost (at $10.8 billion). This is still with the government for approval.

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