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Indian Iron ore imports zoom 190percent to 6.34 mt in Apr-Aug over domestic price hikes

Iron ore imports into the country zoomed 190 per cent to 6.34 million tonnes (mt) during April-August, the first five months of this financial year.

Data from the Pellet Manufacturers Association of India (PMAI) show a projection of over 12 mt for the full year. In 2017-18, ore import was 8.6 mt, itself 48 per cent higher than in 2016-17.

Imports are on an upswing since steel plants on the coast have shown an increasing tendency to import the key ingredient. Importing is the cheaper option for such units compared to buying from the domestic market.

A senior executive with a steel company said, “Price hikes (of ore) in the domestic market have been exorbitant in the past three to four months. Importing of ore is viable for operations.”
Between July and September, prices of iron ore fines in Odisha, the largest producing state, rose 80 per cent, while prices of lumps moved up 29 per cent. Government-owned NMDC, the single biggest producer, raised prices twice last month. In the latest instance, it raised the price of lumps by 8.4 per cent to Rs 3,850 a tonne and that of fines by 6.4 per cent to Rs 3,310 a tonne. The company ascribed this to less production due to the rains and robust demand, with firming up of steel and sponge iron prices.

The domestic production of iron ore is also rising. The country produced 210 mt in 2017-18. In FY19, the output is tipped to rise by two per cent to five per cent, helped by stable demand from the automobile and infrastructure industries, according to a report by CARE Ratings.

Mining companies say supply bottlenecks are escalating the landed cost of iron ore for steel units. “There is an abundance of ore but miners are not getting enough railway rakes, as these are diverted to the coal sector. Due to logistics constraints, the landed cost of ore is shooting up for steel plants on the coast and they are sourcing more from import. Also, there are limitations on the availability of higher grade ore from domestic mines as they get older and the quantity of fines extracted is higher,” said a mining industry source.

Usually, steel plants are averse to lifting lower grade fines — higher grade ore is more suitable for their operations. PMAI says the requirement of higher grade (62-65 Fe) is projected at 236 mt per annum (mtpa) by 2020, climbing to 480 mtpa by 2030, to meet the envisaged steel capacity of 300 mtpa. A thrust on pelletisation and beneficiation of lower grade ore is needed, it says.
Source: Business Standard.

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