Proposed beneficiation of low-grade iron ore evokes mixed reaction from industry

A mining ministry panel has suggested steps for the beneficiation and upgradation of low-grade iron ore into higher-grade one

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Proposed beneficiation of low-grade iron ore evokes mixed reaction from industry

New Delhi: The government’s push for beneficiation of 80 percent of low-grade iron ore has evoked mixed responses with some miners saying the move will make iron ore mining an unviable business while others say it will incentivise the sector.

The beneficiation process improves the industrial value of low-grade iron ore.

A Mining Ministry panel has suggested steps for the beneficiation and upgradation of low-grade iron ore into higher-grade ones.

As per recommendations, at least 80 percent of the low-grade ore (with iron content of less than 58 percent) produced in a year be upgraded to higher grade ore (of 62 percent iron content), failing which sharp fines and termination of mine lease have been suggested.

According to Sumit Deb, chairman-cum-managing director of NMDC, country’s largest producer of iron ore, “Some policy measures are being discussed. Definitely, it is going to incentivise the iron ore industry. It helps to increase production.”

The government had constituted an inter-departmental committee to suggest ways to ensure better utilisation of low and lean-grade iron ore resources in India.

Chairman of Mining Engineer’s Association of India (MEAI), Goa Chapter, Joseph Coelho said that the proposed beneficiation of 80 percent low-grade iron ore produce will further require huge capex and infrastructure investments, which may result into iron ore mining operations becoming an unviable business affair, especially for small operators and merchant mines.

“The situation will force many mining operations to shut down or partially curtail operations, ultimately leading to rising unemployment in the sector and for mining professionals,” he explained.

“We infer that the intention behind the same is value addition and need for enhanced R&D in the long run where there is a practical potential,” Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) Secretary Glenn Kalavampara said.

Steel secretary Sajay Kumar Singh on Wednesday stressed upon the need for beneficiation for utilising the rising percentage of low-grade iron ore.

He was of the view that in 2020-21 nearly 17 percent of total iron ore produced in India was of low grade. This figure, Singh said, has increased to 21 percent in 2021-22.

Singh said that if the percentage of low-grade iron increased in such a speed then the challenge would be on how to utilise it.

Earlier, the government had raised the duty on exports of low-grade iron ore to 50 percent from nil. The move was aimed at increasing the availability of raw material for domestic steel manufacturers and other users of iron ore.

However, miners’ body FIMI has sought withdrawal of the government’s decision to impose export duty on low-grade iron ore and stated that the move will have adverse ramifications not only on iron ore mining industry but also on the supply of raw material to downstream users.

(With PTI inputs)

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