India's JSW Steel plans to bid for iron ore blocks in Karnataka

NEW DELHI, April 24 Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:31am EDT

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NEW DELHI, April 24 (Reuters) - India's JSW Steel Ltd plans to bid for iron ore mining blocks in Karnataka state that could go up for auction after a Supreme Court order last week, as the country's third-largest steel producer looks to cut its dependence on costly imports.

JSW and rivals such as Essar Steel have been forced to import iron ore due to a ban on mining in two states of India, once the world's third-largest iron ore exporter that is expected to be a net importer this year.

"We will surely bid," Seshagiri Rao, joint managing director of JSW Steel, told Reuters. "How many we will bid for depends on the details of the auction process."

He said the company might have to keep importing iron ore, the main raw material for making steel, until domestic production ramps up.

India's top court last week canceled the leases of 49 iron ore mines in the southern state because they were mining illegally. It said they may be assigned to the highest bidder among end-users.

JSW already has an iron ore joint venture in Karnataka with a production capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per year. The company has the capacity to produce more than 14 million tonnes of steel products per year, mainly for the domestic market. (Editing by Sunil Nair)

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