New Delhi: India has overtaken the United States to become the world’s third largest steel producer and is working towards achieving 300 million tonnes (MT) target in the next 10 years, Union steel and mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar said today. “So far India was the 4th largest steel producer in the world only after China, Japan and the US. However, during the first five months of this calendar year, India has achieved the 3rd position in the global steel production," Tomar said.

Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, attached to his ministries, in Bengaluru, the minister said Indian steel industry is growing at a reasonably good pace and last year the growth in crude steel production in India was more than 8%. “However, the per capita steel consumption is quite low, 60 kg as against the world average of 216 kg. The low consumption no doubt indicates huge growth potential for Indian steel industry. India has fixed a target of 300 MT production capacity by 2025 and the steel ministry is working out action plan and strategies to achieve this target," he said as per an official statement.

The Indian steel industry is already in expansion mode. The older steel plants are being modernised and expanded. New green field plants are also coming with state-of-the-art technologies. He told the members that recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dedicated India’s largest blast furnace of 4,160 cubic meter, installed at the Steel Authority of India Ltd’s (SAIL) IISCO Steel plant at Burnpur and several blast furnaces of around 4,000 cubic meter with world class efficiency parameters are in the operation in the country.

On research and development to sustain the long-term growth of the Indian steel industry, he said the problems in raw material area need to be addressed to utilise low-grade ore and high ash coal through R&D and technology interventions. The statement said Tomar stressed the need to pursue R&D for development of value added products for which we are dependent on import.

“We have also issued an advisory to all the large steel companies to step up R&D and enhance R&D investment up to 1% of their sales turnover. SAIL has a corporate R&D centre at Ranchi. The Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL) is also expending R&D infrastructure. Large private sector companies have also set up good R&D facilities for addressing their problems," he added.

The ministry of steel is facilitating for setting up of a new institution SRTMI and is contributing 50% in the corpus of SRTMI to spearhead R&D of national importance. In principle, the approval for setting up of SRTMI has been given and CEOs of major Indian steel companies have signed an agreement with the ministry of steel for participation and financial contribution in the initiative with an initial corpus of 200 crore.

Tomar said several plants have already been expanded and SAIL is in the process of modernising and expanding its capacity from the present level of 12.8 MT to 21.4 MT. Mines secretary Balvender Kumar said that the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 2015 would address the emergent problems in the mining industry.

The amendment removes discretion in the grant of mineral concessions that would be granted by the respective state governments now through auctions, thereby bringing in a greater transparency and removing discretion. He said the Act makes it mandatory to establish a district mineral foundation (DMF) in all districts where mining takes place. “Contribution to the DMF of an amount not exceeding one-third of the royalty rate in so far as new concessions to be granted by auction are concerned and not exceeding the royalty in respect of existing concessions has been provided for," Kumar said as per the statement.

Talking about exploration, Kumar said in order to bring the Indian mining industry at par with global standards, the Act has provided for a national mineral exploration trust created out of contribution from the mining lease holders. “This would allow the government to have a dedicated fund for undertaking exploration. The national mineral exploration trust is being set up to provide impetus to exploration in the mining sector. In addition, the transferability provision (in respect of mining leases to be granted through auction) would permit flow of greater investment to the sector and increasing efficiency in mining," he added.

On provisions to check illegal mining, he said, all offences under the Act will now be subject to a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment or fine of 5 lakh per hectare.

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