Indian consortium to invest Rs375 crore on iron ore exploration in Afghanistan

A consortium of Indian companies led by Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) is planning to invest around Rs375 crore, initially, for detailed exploration of three iron ore mines it had earlier bagged in Hajigak, Afghanistan.

The exploration will give the Indian consortium, Afghanistan Iron & Steel Consortium (AFISCO), an indication of the size and grade of reserves, although earlier estimates by the Afghan government had put the reserves at 1.8 billion tonnes.

The consortium, comprising state-run SAIL, National Mineral Development Corp Ltd, steelmaker Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), and private sector steelmakers JSW Steel, JSW Ispat Steel, Jindal Steel & Power and Monnet Ispat & Energy, had, in November last year, won the rights to develop three blocks of the huge Hajigak iron ore concession in central Afghanistan.

The consortium will invest $11 billion (Rs55,000 crore) over eight to 10 years in a planned steel plant, develop iron ore mines and create infrastructure.

A team from AFISCO will visit Afghanistan soon for talks with the government on the final agreement.

"We will seek the Afghan government's role in providing safety and security cover to Indian personnel. Since Afghanistan is on a negative list, the security factor will weigh critically before we make any investments," said SAIL chairman, CS Verma.