This will help the Bhilai Steel Plant get a footprint in the area.
Rajhara, Chhattisgarh: The Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) is working hard to start “interim mining” at the Rowghat iron ore mines at the earliest, which has been stuck for several years. This will help the company get a footprint in the area to start the full-fledged mining activities. The Rowghat project is crucial for SAIL-BSP in view of iron ore security for the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) as reserves in its existing mines are going to be exhausted soon.
Falling under under Matla Reserved Forest Area, the Rowghat F block deposits, located 185 km south of Bhilai is spread out in the districts of Narainpur and Kanker and has estimated reserves of 511 million tonnes.
A senior SAIL official said the Rowghat Project was central to meeting future iron ore requirements of the plant. “All measures are being taken so as to enable BSP to commence interim mining in the area in less than a year’s time. Rowghat Mines personnel have earmarked the approach road to Anjrel block where we shall be taking up interim mining. Environment Appraisal Committee has given its consent for approaching Rowghat reserves from Narainpur end to enable interim mining in Anjrel Block,” the BSP official said.
At present the BSP owns and manages the mechanised and manual iron ore mines at Dalli – Rajhara, situated about 83 km to the south of Bhilai. It also owns and manages the mechanized & manual limestone mines at Nandini, about 28 km to the north of the plant and Hirri near Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh for Dolomite.
Ore reserves of existing Dalli-Rajhara mines are fast depleting and to meet the increased requirement of iron ore after capacity expansion, BSP is developing Rowghat iron ore mine, about 85 km from Rajhara, with an estimated reserve of 511 million tonnes. Steps are meanwhile being taken to optimise mining from existing reserves. Additional reserves are being exploited in and around the IOC. The project was perceived 25 years back as future source for iron ore for the BSP. However, the progress was delayed for want of clearances from Ministry of Environment and Forests and also on account of obstructions from Maoists.
This is to be noted that Bhilai is the only plant of SAIL to have its own captive iron ore mines and it is to leverage this advantage that SAIL-Bhilai has vigorously pursued the issue of getting all necessary and statutory clearances for Rowghat Mines with different government agencies. BSP is currently undergoing expansion which will enhance its hot metal making capacity to 7.5 MTPA. The deposits in BSP’s existing captive iron ore mines in Dalli-Rajhara are fast dwindling.
The BSP had first applied for mining lease in 1983. A revised application was submitted to the state government on 2 June 1988. The first stage forest clearance was obtained in October 2008 and the environment clearance in June 2009. BSP was granted Stage II or the final Forestry Clearance by the MoEF on 5 August 2009. On 15 September 2009, Bhilai Steel Plant was granted Mining Lease by Chhattisgarh government, paving way for the plant to mine for iron ore in the Rowghat F block iron ore deposits.
The grant of mining lease after having secured all the necessary environment and forestry clearances brought much relief to SAIL and BSP. However, work on the project could not make much progress owing to security issues in the Rowghat area. All activities to clear the ground for setting up new mining facilities, including construction of road to mine-head & phase-wise laying of rail line are being expedited, said the official. An agreement for engagement of MDO (Mines Developer and Operator) for development & operation of 14 MTPA iron ore mines at Rowghat was signed on 25 September between SAIL-BSP and M/s ACB Mining Pvt Ltd, New Delhi. M/s ACB Mining Private limited, New Delhi, MDO shall develop Rowghat iron ore mines on behalf of SAIL/Bhilai Steel Plant for a period of 30 years and commercial production from mines, as per agreement with MDO, shall begin from the year 2022. Being financed by SAIL-BSP, rail line along the 90 km from Rajhara to Rowghat has been laid till Keoti. Passenger train first plied till Gudum. Later on Prime Minister Narendra Modi formally inaugurated the extended rail link till Bhanupratapur through video conferencing during his visit to Bijapur on 14 April 2018. Further rail line has been extended till Keoti. “As on date, rail line from Rajhara to Keoti via Gudum and Bhanupratapur is operational and passenger trains are plying till Keoti. Construction of rail line is progressing and the day is not far when the rail line would be operational till Antagarh,” the official added.
The official said since security had emerged as the only bottleneck impeding the progress of the project, SAIL-BSP had requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide para-military forces so as to ensure security of life and property of different personnel and contractors engaged for the project. “Two battalions of Border Security Force were provided to ensure work on the mining project at Rowghat could progress. Two battalions of SSB (Sashstra Seema Bal) were also provided so ensure that work of different stretches of rail line from Dalli-Rajhara to Rowghat could make progress. SAIL-BSP has provided necessary infrastructure support to the paramilitary forces to set up camps in the area,” he added.