India turned a net importer of iron ore in calendar year 2014, as import far exceeded exports. Domestic steel mills imported little over eight million tonnes (mt) of the key steel-making raw material, as against export of around seven mt.
Major producers such as JSW Steel, Tata Steel and Essar Steel resorted to import of high quality ore, available at almost the same cost as domestically produced lower grade material.
Imports during the year were 8.05 mt. The previous record was 3.1 mt in 2012.
Lack of stocks in the domestic market and falling prices in foreign markets encouraged ore-starved mills to look for imported material. Domestic production has been steadily declining from a high of 220 mt in 2009-10 to about 150 mt in FY14.
JSW Steel imported around six mt out of about 10 mt it plans to import in 2014-15, the financial year having three months more to go. Tata Steel brought in 2.2 mt, while Essar Steel imported half a million tonnes.
State-owned pellet maker Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd imported around 100,000 tonnes from Iran, JSPL imported 120,000 tonnes of pellets from its Oman plant.
In 2013, import of ore stood at a mere 1.2 mt. CY 2012, had seen the previous highest level of imports at 3.1 mt. CY 2011, though, had witnessed just about 600,000 tonnes, according to data compiled by Delhi-based Ore Team Research.
“Conditions have changed through the years and in the process of correcting the illegalities and regularising the mining industry, the judiciary and state governments had to take hard decisions, which has led to these circumstances,” said Prakash Duvvuri, head at Ore Team Research.
As a result, India has turned out to be a net importer of iron ore, as exports have dipped amid declining global prices. India exported barely 7.27 mt in calendar year 2014 against 8.12 mt of imports, he pointed out.
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