In the wake of maoist threats, the Home Ministry has approved deployment of four battalions of paramilitary forces - two from CRPF and two from others - at steel major SAIL's Rowghat iron ore mine in Chhattisgarh to begin the Rs 5,000 crore development work.
"Yesterday, there was meeting in the Home Ministry. The Chief Secretary Chhattisgarh and Director General of CRPF also attended. They (Home Ministry) are giving us four battalions," Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said here today.
SAIL had approached the Home Ministry for deployment of five battalions of Central Reserves Police Force to guard its Rowghat mine at Chhattisgarh's Bastar region while commencing the mine development work and was willing to foot the bill.
Despite getting all clearances way back in 2009, SAIL could not start the project which required felling of around 1.5 lakh trees.
Local naxalites had declared that no trees would be cut and there would be one person killed for one tree cut. SAIL had started clearing forests, but since October, 2010, it could cut down only 12 trees.
"SAIL did not have sufficient force to ensure support to the state forest department to cut the trees. Now, Home Ministry has agreed to deploy four battalions. Those will secure the area so that the forest department of the state government can fell trees and work on the rail line could be started," Steel Secretary D R S Chaudhary said.
"The Home Ministry will give a mix of CRPF and others. It will be CRPF and two others. It depends upon the number of battalions that are free," he added.
The Rowghat mines, spread over 2,000 hectres, has over 500 million tonnes iron ore reserves and is crucial for meeting SAIL's Bhilai Steel Plant's (BSP) iron ore needs.
Presently, BSP sources its requirement from Dalli-Rajhara mines, which is fast depleting. Incidentally, SAIL is raising production capacity at BSP as part of its Rs 72,000 crore capacity expansion plan.
SAIL had also appointed an Australian consultancy firm, Hatch Associates, for preparing a detailed project exploration report. However, the survey work has been held up as the state security department is not allowing transportation of equipment in the forest due to naxalite problem.
SAIL plans to invest Rs 5,000 crore in the mines which includes laying of a 91-km rail line from Dalli-Rowghat at a cost of Rs 702 crore. The construction of the rail-line is also facing resistance from the naxalities.
Meanwhile, SAIL had in May this year sent a proposal to the Environment Ministry seeking clearances to set up a 14 million tonnes per annum iron ore beneficiation plant in the Rowghat mine area. The clearance is awaited.