Union Steel Secretary writes to Odisha to ensure Functioning of Steel Industries,Transportation of Raw Materials

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By Anujay Dhal

RAJKANIKA/KENDRAPARA: After Union PNG-Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan held video conference with CMD of PSUs under PNG-Steel Ministries with reports of halt in transportation of minerals from mineral rich districts of Jajpur, Keonjhar, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj in Odisha and rest of the Country, in view of the restriction imposed for nationwide lockdown, Union Steel Secretary Binoy Kumar has written a letter to States including Odisha to ensure smooth transportation of Minerals and Raw materials , functioning of Steel Plants and transportation of finished Steel, sources in Odisha Government said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, earlier reports had said that tens of thousands of trucks engaged to transport minerals from Odisha’s mineral bearing districts like Keonjhar,Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj and Jajpur districts to various Ports and  Plants locations were  stopped operations after the Naveen Patnaik Government here imposed complete lockdown fearing COVID-19 outbreak in the State.

 “Transportations by around 70,000 trucks and tippers these above mentioned 4 mineral rich districts, apart from coal bearing areas, were expected to hit but with directive from Union Steel Ministry , it was expected, things will be smooth in next few days,” added a Barbil , Keonjhar based Sponge Iron Plant CMD.

Union Steel Secretary, Kumar citing production, supply and distribution of Steel and its inputs materials under section 2(1)(a)(xii) of Essential Services Maintenance Act of 1981, in his letter said that in view of the restriction imposed on operation of non-essential commercial establishments and movement of people in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in this regard, it has came to the notice of the Steel Ministry that the several Steel Plants across the Country are facing problem.

“Entry of workers, supply of raw materials and despatched of finished Steel, this is likely to adversely affect not only the operations of these Steel Plants but also has the potential to damage their Plant and Machineries,” Kumar wrote to all State Chief Secretaries including Odisha, copy of the letter which was sent,  is available with www.indianewsdiary.com.

“In view of the fact that section 2(1)(a)(xii) of Essential Services Maintenance Act of 1981 clearly lists “any service in any establishment or undertaking dealing with production, supply, or distribution of Coal, Power, Steel or Fertilisers” as an “Essential Service”,  it is requested that no restriction shall be imposed on the operation of Steel Plants, both Integrated, as well as Induction Furnace or Electric Arc Furnace based Steel units, entry of workers in these engaged in these Plants, movement of raw materials including Iron, Ore,CoalLimestone, Dolomite,Ferro-alloys, Scrap, Sponge Iron and intermediate or finished products to and from such Plants  through road, rail, water and sea,” Union Steel Secretary Kumar said in his Letter dated on March 24, 2020.

Citing the problem faced by Mining sector, Kumar wrote, considering the fact that mining activities are integral to the operations of Plants, it is also requested that no restriction should be placed on the operations of Mines of Coking Coal, Iron, Ore,Coal, Limestone, Dolomite, Ferro-alloys, Scrap, Sponge Iron and as well as operation of Sponge Iron Plants, Ferroalloys, Iron Ore Pellet Plant which supply critical raw materials for Steel making, the letter added.

Kumar however said that suitable instructions may also be issued for allowing un-restricted Inter-State movements of Trucks carrying the above mentioned raw materials and finished Steel in order to maintain an efficient supply chain.

Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas &, Steel Dharmendra Pradhan, had on Tuesday conducted a video conference with CMDs of all PSUs of Ministries of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Steel. He reviewed the status of supplies of petroleum products in the country, operations of refineries, terminals and steel plants and also reviewed the safety measures being taken for the employees and their families.

In a statement, Pradhan later had said, “We are working to ensure that supplies of essential products to the people are not disrupted. At the same time, we are ensuring safety of our team members.”

“Our team members who are putting service over self and ensuring that essential supplies are not hit, deserve applause. I have instructed CMDs to take all necessary steps to ensure safety and well being of our employees and their family members,” he further added.“These are challenging times. We must endure, we must prevail. Our team is fully geared up to meet the challenges. Together, we shall overcome.” the Minister said.

In connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, Minister of State (I/C) for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya today reviewed situation at all major ports regarding cargo handling, SOP, payment to casual labourers,  etc., through video conferencing, with all the Chairpersons of  ports and Director General, Shipping in this pandemic situation.

More than 90% of exim cargo is handled through ports.  For proper and smooth maintenance of the supply chain, the Ministry of Shipping is taking all-round measures. For easy movement of cargo at ports, the Ministry of Shipping has prepared Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to be adhered at all ports to fight against COVID-19.

Gopalpur Port Ltd has taken all precautionary measures to prevent the outbreak of COVID – 19 and It is strictly following the norms and directives received from the Directorate General of Shipping and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfares of Government of India, said Sandeep Agarwal, CEO GPL.

Compared to last year (CY18), this year, Odisha’s contribution to India’s total iron ore production has increased significantly. Paradip remained the largest iron ore exporting port in CY19. This year, Paradip Port’s iron ore exports increased 110% to around 13.28 MnT against CY18’s 6.32 MnT. Dhamra Port is in second spot at 4.16 MnT and Vishakhapatnam is third, reporting exports of around 3.77 MnT.

In CY19, average annual prices of Odisha’s iron ore lumps of Fe 63% (5-18mm) were reported at INR 3,971/MT. The highest price was recorded in the second half of February at INR 4,600/MT, while the lowest price was observed in the first half of October at INR 3,500/MT.

The average annual price of Odisha’s iron ore fines of Fe 63% were reported at INR 1,947/MT. Prices peaked at INR 2,300/MT for one week during mid-February, while the lowest price was observed during the whole of October and the first half of November at INR 1,750/MT.The average annual price of Karnataka’s iron ore fines of Fe 60% were reported at INR 2,045/MT while Fe 63% lumps were reported at INR 2,934/MT.

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