Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has stopped production at Bolani iron ore mine, one of its major mines, in Joda mining circle following expiry of the working permit for this mine.
The PSU steel major had received working permit for the maximum allowable period of two years after the grant of stage-I forest clearance. The company now has to wait for the stage-II forest clearance before restart of operation at the mine.
“Efforts are on to obtain stage-II clearance. Since this is a government-owned entity, there may not be major delay in getting the clearance. By the end of this month, hopefully, we will be able to operate,” said a senior official of SAIL.
The company was granted stage-1 forest clearance in November 2010. Since then it was operating the mine by obtaining temporary working permit from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). The permit was being extended every three or four months for a total period of two years.
SAIL was operating the Bolani mine under deemed extension clause as per the provisions of the Mineral and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. Earlier in February 2012, it had to stop mining briefly for about two weeks pending extension of the working permit.
The process of getting stage-II clearance remain grounded for months as both the Central and state environment ministries were not ready to clear SAIL application, citing danger to wild life, especially elephants, due to mining activity.
However, the state forest department was convinced after SAIL chairman C S Verma assured about the wellbeing of animals of the area during his meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in October this year, added the SAIL official.
Bolani mines, spread over 1,321 ha in Keonjhar district under Joda mines circle, possess one of the best quality iron ores that are primarily used for the Durgapur and Rourkela plant of SAIL. Out of the total area, about 1,225 ha belong to forest category. The mine has an estimated iron ore reserve of about 150 million tonne.
In 2008, SAIL had announced to invest Rs 120 crore to develop Bolani mine that included deploying highly efficient earth moving equipment and other effective mining method. Following the expansion, Bolani mine alone will supply about 10 million tonne iron ore every year to the national steel producer.
The company currently produces approximately 13 million tonne steel out of its several plants located in different parts of the country and has plans to increase the output to 23 million tonne by the end of 2012-13.
It is expected to increase iron ore production to 38 million tonnes, in line with the company’s Rs 70,000-crore mega expansion plans.