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JSW Steel, which is facing severe shortage of iron ore for its 11-million tonne Vijaynagar steel plant in Bellary district, is planning to experiment with very low-grade and inferior quality ore having iron (Fe) content between 40 and 50 per cent.
The company has so far used ore with Fe content up to 52 per cent. Now, for the first time it is trying to feed its blast furnaces with the most inferior raw material, a top company official said. The company is currently operating its Bellary plant at 68 per cent capacity due to poor supply of iron ore.
“We have iron ore sufficient enough to achieve 70 per cent capacity utilisation till March. We are now looking to procure raw material for the first quarter of next fiscal. Once, the Monitoring Committee releases dumps for e-auction we will procure and use it. It is better to use whatever grade ore is available rather than keeping our blast furnaces idle,” Vinod Nowal, director and chief executive officer, JSW Steel, told Business Standard.
“We have technology available to beneficiate low-grade iron ore. So far, we have used up to 52 per cent Fe and for the first time we are going to experiment with even lower grade ore. The recovery of iron will be in the range of 35-40 per cent and the losses would be about 60 per cent,” he added.
JSW Steel has set up a beneficiation plant with a capacity to beneficiate two million tonnes of low-grade iron ore.
Nowal said the company is looking forward to dumps being put on auction by the Monitoring Committee. It is estimated that about seven to eight million tonnes of dumps are available at various mines in Karnataka and the Monitoring Committee is currently finalising a plan to put these on auction.
However, the company is waiting for the Committee to announce the base price for the dumps.
“The quality of ore may differ from mine to mine and we have to wait and see what type of ore would come for auction. We have to work out how much we can recover and it also depends on what would be the base price at the auctions. We would be comfortable if the base price does not cross Rs 300-400 per tonne. If the price is higher than this, then it will not be economically viable,” Nowal added.
Recently, the Monitoring Committee had auctioned about 6.3 million tonnes of low-grade ore from the dumps of Mineral Enterprises Limited for an average price of Rs 650 per tonne for 53 per cent Fe grade ore.
The company would use the dumps only in the first quarter of next fiscal as the date of auction for such ore is still to be decided by the monitoring committee.