After a six-year wait, India’s largest iron ore miner, NMDC Ltd., has gained access to new iron ore reserves in the central Indian province of Chhattisgarh, an official in the ministry of mines said. The deposit covers approximately 317 ha and is known as Bailadila 13, containing proven reserves of about 300 million metric tons (mt).

Final approval for NMDC to start mining at Bailadila was granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) earlier this month for early-phase operations to produce 1 million mt of ore per year.

NMDC has operated two mines in close proximity to the new Bailadila 13 deposit for more than 50 years. In 2008, NMDC floated a joint venture company with Chhattisgarh Mining Development Corp. (CMDC), a company controlled by the provincial government, but has been unable to implement new projects in the absence of the mandatory approvals, the official said.

Officials in the provincial government of Chhattisgarh said that a few formalities were yet to be completed following which leases for land and mining would be transferred to NMDC, which in turn would transfer it to the joint venture company.

The project was expected to commence within 15–18 months, officials said. However, they cautioned that the region posed severe challenges to efficient and timely project implementation due to the presence of armed extremists; projects there require the security of trained paramilitary forces.

NMDC achieved iron ore production of 30.18 million mt during the 12-month period ended March 31, an increase of 11% over the corresponding previous period.

A NMDC official said that the access to new reserves at Bailadila 13 would be critical to its goal of ramping-up total ore production to 50 million mt/y within the next five years, for which the company had earmarked $2.93 billion in capex for new projects.