| NEW DELHI, March 26
NEW DELHI, March 26 JSW Steel, India's
No. 3 steel maker, said it expects imports of metallurgical coal
to stay flat at 7-8 million tonnes in 2014/15, indicating its
mills will continue to run below capacity due to soft demand and
a shortage of iron ore.
The company said in December its 10 million-tonne-per-year
mill in Karnataka state would not operate at more than 80
percent capacity in the near future as supply of key feedstock
iron ore stays weak. It has also slowed plans to nearly triple
annual capacity to 40 million tonnes in the next decade.
Steps to curb illegal mining in Karnataka and neighbouring
Goa have led to a sharp cut in output of iron ore in India, once
the third-largest exporter. Karnataka is gradually ramping up
production after the country's top court lifted a ban there.
"Our coking coal (metallurgical coal) imports will stay the
same but we expect the iron ore situation in India to improve
next year," JSW Steel's joint managing director Seshagiri Rao
said on Wednesday.
"More and more mines are getting opened in Karnataka and we
expect Odisha's production to rise as well."
Still, iron ore production in Karnataka is expected to rise
to about 22 million tonnes in the year ending March 2015, below
an annual limit of 30 million tonnes. Odisha and Karnataka are
the biggest iron ore-producing states.
JSW Steel, whose second-biggest shareholder JFE Steel is the
world's ninth-largest steel company and a unit of Japan's JFE
Holdings, was on occasions forced to import ore for a
3.3 million-tonnes-per-year coastal plant in Maharashtra state.
The short supply is one of the reasons companies such as JSW
Steel and Jindal Steel and Power bid for UK trader
Stemcor's Indian iron ore assets, which are up for sale.
But Rao said there was little progress on the sale.
"We don't really know what their intention is, whether they
would like to proceed," he said. "When we submit a bid, we
should receive what their intention is. We don't really know
Stemcor spokesman Charles Armitstead could not be contacted
for comment. He said in February that Stemcor continued to have
discussions with a number of parties regarding the sale.
Stemcor, a private British firm controlled by members of the
Oppenheimer family, owns an iron ore mine in Odisha with a
capacity to produce 3 million tonnes and a 4-million-tonne a
year iron pellet plant.
(Editing by Susan Fenton)