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India, Oman to revive Iran gas pipeline talks

The Iran-Oman-India undersea gas pipeline, which has been stuck for some time now, is set to get a major push as the India-Oman joint commission is set to take it up.

The pipeline project will bring Iranian gas to India, with possibly central Asian countries also feeding off it.

The joint commission, at the level of commerce ministers, met in September-October this year. Oman’s foreign minister, Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj recently discussed the project and the need to speed it up as the two countries look to increase bilateral engagement, sources said.

Though Oman and India have an immediate trade target of $6 billion (`35,580 crore) by next year, they are looking to set a much-higher target.

The pipeline, estimated to cost $5 billion, will have considerable commercial and strategic importance.

While sanctions on Iran easing, this appears to be the right time to press ahead with the project, which was last discussed in the 1990’s but had to be abandoned due to lack of technology.

Engineering advancements since then make the project more feasible to execute today. The pipeline could transport about 31 million cubic metres of gas a day.

Other than Qatar, Iran is the only country with surplus gas in the Persian Gulf. India is developing Chabahar port in southeastern Iran. The port is of a great strategic value, giving landlocked Afghanistan, a friendly country, access to the sea, bypassing Pakistan. Chabahar could well be India’s entry point to oil and gas-rich Central Asia.

Steelmakers Restart mining in Odisha

Tata Steel Ltd. (TATA) and Steel Authority of India Ltd. (SAIL), the nation’s top producers, have restarted most of their iron ore mines in eastern Odisha state after getting new permits from the regional government. Their shares surged. Eight mines, which have an annual combined capacity of 20 million metric tons and received new mining leases, have resumed ore extraction, G. Srinivas, the mines secretary at the Odisha government, said. These include four mines of Tata Steel, three of Steel Authority or SAIL and one belonging to Orissa Mining Corp. The Supreme Court had ordered suspension of mining at 26 quarries, pending renewal of extraction leases from the regional government. The court gave six months to the state to dispose all applications for renewing permits and asked it to first process the applications for mines owned by steelmakers. “The restart is very positive and has come much before our expectations,” said Rahul Jain, a Mumbai-based analyst with CIMB Securities India Pvt Ltd. “Their costs won’t rise as they needn’t buy from outside.”

“We have ensured that the biggest mines have started and this will improve supplies,” Srinivas said from Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. “The restarted mines constitute two-thirds of the capacity suspended by the court.”

Cost of delayed projects 1 trillion

As many as 295 infrastructure sector projects worth Rs 150 crore or more are delayed with total cost overrun of Rs 1,01,436 crore. Out of 720 central sector infrastructure sector projects costing Rs 150 crore and above, 295 projects were delayed," Planning Minister Rao Inderjit Singh has said. "The original cost of the 295 delayed projects is Rs 5,48,838 crore and anticipated cost is Rs 6,50,274 crore, a total cost overrun of Rs 1,01,436 crore." Out of 295 delayed projects, the road sector accounted for the maximum number of 92 delayed projects with total cost overrun of Rs 1,975 crore.

NMDC to scale up iron ore output

National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd (NMDC) has decided to scale up its production of iron ore gradually and aims to double output by 2018-19. Narendra Kothari, CMD of NMDC, said the miner has set a production target of 31 million tonnes (mt) of iron ore and sales of 32 mt in 2014-15. In 2013-14, it produced 30 mt of iron ore. “By 2018-19 we expect to reach a target of 60 mt and by 2024-25 NMDC targets to touch 100 mt of iron ore,” he added. These are revised production targets for NMDC. Earlier, the public sector miner had set an output target of 50 mt by 2014-15. It plans to enhance production capabilities at its mines and also open up new mines such as Deposit-11B in the Bailadila sector of Chhattisgarh and Kumaraswamy in Donimalai sector of Karnataka.

Kothari said NMDC was preparing action plans for its Jharkhand assets. Through a joint venture with the Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation, NMDC is pursuing the projects at Sasangada and Ghatkuri in West Singhbhum Distict of Jharkhand. A meeting of prospective equipment suppliers has been organised in January, he added. He said NMDC’s three-million-tonne-a-year proposed steel plant at Jagdalpur should be ready by December 2015. Kothari said NMDC was targeting exploration of potash in Russia. The CMD also said the Government has allowed the national miner to undertake joint exploration in the unexplored areas of the country.

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