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With the demand for steel expected to be on the higher side both domestically and globally, it was imperative for India to build and effective mechanism to facilitate capacity addition as well as reduce import dependency for coal, a member of the government think-tank has said.
“This is the right time to channelise our efforts to reducing bills attributed to coking coal imports,” Dr. VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog told the audience during the webinar ‘Mapping Coal Matrix for Indian Metals Industry: Availability, Joint Auction & Embracing Technology’, organised by the industry chamber Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), on Wednesday.
Dr. Saraswat said that the focus of the NITI Aayog along with the Ministry of Coal was on promoting gasification. “If and when the requirement comes, we will be able to divert the gasified coal output to the direct reduced iron (DRI) industry in a big way. The govt will soon come up with a roadmap for production of methanol from coal to promote clean energy in India,” he added.
Speaking on the recent initiative for joint auctioning of coal and bauxite mines, Dr. Saraswat said that with the private investors coming in, and taking coal to the auction process and mining it will help provide coal at market price. He also suggested that if the entire sector is brought under GST, the number of levies and cesses, which dictate the price of the coal, will also be controlled.
Regarding the aluminium industry, Dr. Saraswat was of the view that all disability factors had to be removed to provide it with a competitive edge.
“I request the aluminium industry to also integrate solar energy, which could help overcome the cost disadvantage. We also now need to identify aluminium as one of the sectors that will contribute significantly to Atmanirbhar Bharat ,” he added.
Rasika Chaube, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Steel said that out of the 58 million tonnes (MT) of coking coal that is required every year, 45 MT was being imported from Australia alone. “As per the prime minister’s directives, we must start using domestic coal,” she said.
Chaube also said that a committee consisting of Additional Secretary, Ministry of Coal, was trying to work on ways to enhance the usage of domestic coal. She also said that due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coal India had a surplus which they can give to the DRI units, but because the stakeholders had already entered in import commitments for importing, they were unable to use this facility.
“We have, therefore, requested the Ministry of Coal if their CPSEs can assure us of a consistent supply over a period of time, then our stakeholders will not enter into agreements of import,” she added.
The Ministry of Coal and the Ministry of Steel shared the objective of using domestic coal as far as possible. She also said that if the issue of the coal cess is addressed, it will make it easy for domestic stakeholders.
Peeyush Kumar, Director Technical, Ministry of Coal said that the ministry will ensure linkages to the DRI units so that the dependence on imports was reduced significantly. “We assure the industry that we are there to support you with whatever help is required,” he added.
VR Sharma, Co-Chair Steel Committee and Managing Director, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd said, “In line with the prime minister's vision to build Atmanirbhar Bharat, India is making a fundamental shift to unleash the coal sector. The cost of coal must reduce further and be the same throughout the country.”