Faced with stiff competition from global players, leading Indian steel makers — SAIL, Tata Steel, JSW and ArcelorMittal — are in talks to form a consortium that will bid as a single entity to tap Afghan iron ore deposits that are estimated by the Kabul government to be worth $350-billion (R15.8 lakh crore).
If successful, the consortium will become one of the world’s strongest, financially. The Hajigak iron ore reserves in Afghanistan are estimated at 2 billion tonnes.
Sources familiar with the development said the Indian firms and ArcelorMittal, led by Indian Lakshmi Mittal, were mulling a consortium as it would be difficult for them individually to match their global peers participating in the bids. These include a Chinese firm that already has a presence in Afghanistan through the $40-billion (R1.8-lakh crore) Aynak copper mine south of Kabul.
SAIL chairman CS Verma told HT, “SAIL has participated in expression of interest for Hajigak deposits. While there have been informal discussions between shortlisted Indian firms, no decision has been taken yet on the proposal for joint bidding by consortium.” A spokesperson for ArcelorMittal said in an email response: “we do not comment on market rumours”. Mails sent to Tata Steel and JSW remained unanswered.
Last month, Afghan mining minister Wahidullah Shahrani had said that Tata Steel and JSW are among 22 companies that will be bidding for the Hajigak deposits.