In a first, SAIL offers to pay CRPF for its security

KOLKATA: Steel Authority of India, the country’s largest steelmaker, says it is ready to fund the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for giving protection to its personnel and equipment in the iron ore-rich and Maoist-infested state of Chhattisgarh.

The offer, first such by a corporate entity in India, comes at a time the steelmaker is desperate to begin operations at its greenfield Rowghat mine, located deep inside the forests of Chhattisgarh.

The company says it has allocated Rs 200 crore for CRPF’s special security units if they agree to provide protection for the development of its mine.

The Rowghat mine is critical for the survival of SAIL’s 3-million-tonne Bhilai Steel Plant, the company’s most profitable unit and India’s sole producer of rails and heavy steel plates.

“We are ready to bear the cost of security,” a top SAIL executive told ET, requesting anonymity. “It is linked to the future of Bhilai Steel Plant, and we have no other option left.”

At present, the Bhilai plant is fed by captive mines at Dalli-Rajhara in Chhattisgarh’s Durg district. But the reserves of these mines are fast depleting and, according to some estimates, the two mines will completely run out in five years.

SAIL has approached the home ministry, which oversees deployment of CRPF, through the steel ministry. The home ministry is considering whether to extend the CRPF cover to SAIL’s Rowghat mine.

“We would like to carry on mine development work in the area under protection from security forces such as the CRPF,” the SAIL executive said. “The steel ministry is talking to both the Union home ministry and the state government.”

The executive said SAIL sees the money allocated for the CRPF cover as a one-time investment.

SAIL plans to invest Rs 5,000 crore to develop the Rowghat mine, which includes a 90-km railway line. According to the original plan, the mine was to produce about 14 million tonnes of iron ore beginning 2015.

The company, which received forest and environment clearance for the project in October 2009, has not been able to make much headway because of repeated threats from Maoists.

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