Imperative to build a mechanism to reduce import dependence of coal for metals industry: Member, NITI Aayog

New Delhi: Dr V K Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog, Government of India, yesterday said that the demand for steel is going to be high both domestic and globally, hence it becomes imperative for India to build an effective mechanism which will be a key to facilitate capacity addition and have reduced import dependence of coal. “This is the right time to channelize our efforts to reducing bills attributing to coking coal imports,” he said.

Addressing a webinar ‘Mapping Coal Matrix for Indian Metals Industry: Availability, Joint Auction & Embracing Technology’ organised by FICCI, 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 said.

Speaking on the recent initiative of 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 if the aluminium industry has to be competitive, all disability factors have to be removed. “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.

Ms Rasika Chaube, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Steel, GoI, said that out of the 58 million tons of coking coal that is required every year, 45 million tons is imported from Australia alone. “As per the Prime Minister’s directives, we must start using domestic coal. Ms Chaube also said that a committee consisting of Additional Secretary, Coal, was trying to work out how to enhance the usage of domestic coal. She also said that because of the COVID pandemic, Coal India has a surplus which they can give to the DRI units, but because the stakeholders have already entered in import commitments for importing, they are unable to use this facility even when its being offered. “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 share one 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 the domestic stakeholders.

Mr Peeyush Kumar, Ministry of Coal, GoI, said that the ministry will ensure that there are linkages that can be provided to the DRI units so that the dependence on imports reduces significantly. “We assure the industry that we are there to support you with whatever help is required,” he added.

Mr VR Sharma, Co-Chair Steel Committee and MD, 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.”

Mr Basudav Mishra, Executive Director (CIG), SAIL, Mr Himanshu Singh, Head Coal Strategy, Vedanta Ltd., Mr Alok Chandra, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Mines, GoI, Dr Mukesh Kumar, Director, SRTMI (under the aegis of Ministry of Steel, GoI), Mr A K Rana, Director (T/P&D), CMPDI, Ms Vartika Shukla, ED, Engineers India, Mr Shubham Goel, VP, SBI Caps, Mr Gaurav Verma, DGM & Branch Head, M N Dastur & Co. Pvt. Ltd., Mr R R Sonde, CTO & Executive Vice President, Thermax Ltd., put forth their perspectives. The concluding remarks were given by Mr Pankaj Satija, Senior Member, FICCI Steel Committee and Chief Regulatory Affairs, Tata Steel Ltd.