State-owned iron ore producer NMDC has received early-stage clearance for its two major projects in Chhattisgarh, an ore beneficiation plant and a 150 kilometre pipeline to link the mines to its proposed steel plant.
The application for the projects, involving forest land, were moved in 2012, and the grant of Terms of Reference (ToR) would expedite work on its diversification into steel making, officials said.
The estimated and indicative cost of project has been pegged by NMDC at Rs 1,595 crore.
Grant of ToR is kind of first-stage environment clearance, and after meeting certain milestones set in the ToR project developers become eligible for final environment clearance.
"The proposal is for installation of iron ore beneficiation plant to produce 4 million tonne a year iron ore concentrate and pipeline of 150 km long and 24 inch diameter from Bacheli to Nagarnar to transport ore concentrate in slurry form," the letter granting the ToR said.
NMDC had moved its application for forest clearance for the 4 million tonne Bacheli beneficiation plant in 2012.
The delay happened mainly because the plant is proposed to come up partly on 33 hectare of forest land in in Dantewada district in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.
The region is notorious for frequent strikes by Maoist militants, who have frequently blown off NMDC's slurry pipelines carrying iron ore to its niche customers like Essar steel, JSW Steel and RINL.
The naxals had damaged Essar's 267 km-long slurry pipeline in July 2010. The complex returned to full production after restoration of the slurry pipeline in the fourth quarter of 2010-11, but the naxalites again damaged the pipeline.
"Application for 33 hectare of forest land has been submitted by NMDC to forest department in October 2012 for diversion of forest land for beneficiation plant. For slurry pipeline, reconnaissance survey was completed based on which the detailed route survey work is in progress. After completion of the survey, wherever slurry pipeline alignment passes through forest land, necessary permission will be obtained from the forest department for right of way for laying the pipeline," the report said.
NMDC is currently pursuing the installation of the 3 million tonne per annum steel plant at Nagarnar and orders for major technological packages have already been placed.
The miner, however, may go alone in setting up the Rs 15,500 crore project, and may drop its plan to develop it through the joint venture route.