The government has said it will file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking permission to allow public sector unit Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd (KIOCL) to lift the ore left in its mines in Karnataka, as well as to undertake underground mining in the same region.
The apex court had in 2005 ordered closure of the mines in the Western Ghats citing ecological hazard.
Interestingly, the Kudremukh fiasco has an uncanny resemblance to the recent government decision to disallow Sterlite Industries bauxite mining leases at Niyamgiri mountains in Orissa.
Sterlite may as well use the KIOCL as a precedent to push its own case.
"KIOCL was a flourishing company with very high level of efficiency and profitability," said Virbhadra Singh, minister for steel. "We want to go to the SC and file a petition so that the iron ore that is already mined and left on the ground can be lifted. Surely there is no ecological damage in that. It will meet the firm’s ore requirement for full 3 years. Also we want underground mining to be allowed so that the company can be back on its feet and the resources fully utilised."
The ministry of steel had last year proposed to merge KIOCL with PSU mining firm National Mineral Development Corporation through a share-swap.
That proposal was however shot down by an expert committee under P Ganesan, former chairman of KIOCL, which found no synergies between the two firms.
The export oriented KIOCL needs around 4-5 million tonnes of iron ore annually to produce 3.6 million tonnes of pellets and 2.16 lakh tonnes of pig iron.
In 2009-10 its turnover stood at R992.72 crore with a net loss of R177.27 crore.