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Ferro-alloy industry stares at sizeable job loss as mines shut down

With seven manganese and four chromite non-captive mines on their way to shut down by March 2020, the mining industry is staring at a sizeable job loss since the ratio of direct and indirect employment is 1:10.

“Nearly 90 per cent of the labour is on contract basis at these mines. This includes migratory labour also,” Sunil Duggal, president at Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) told Business Standard via telephonic interaction.

This, however, is just the beginning since mining leases of total 329 mines of private mining companies, including 48 operative and 281 non-operative mines spread across 10 states, is set to expire on 31, March 2020.

Of these, 50 per cent of operative mines are in Odisha and the largest shares of non-operative mines are of Goa with 184 mines and Karnataka with about 42 mines.

“There is no guarantee whether the new owner (post auctioning) will employ the entire workforce at the mine site as a lot also depends on how much technological advancements would be applied to the mines, which could curtail employment,” Duggal added.

Since the ratio of direct and indirect employment is 1:10, an estimated 250,000 direct job losses are expected by March 31, 2020. The cumulative loss is expected to reach 2.5 million (25 lakh) and can grow further. Also, once mining stops, the revival of mining activity takes months, said FIMI.

“The contribution of mining industry in India’s GDP is continuously decreasing. At present it is just about 1.53 per cent as compared to 7-7.5 per cent in mineral rich countries like Australia and South Africa. India’s production of minerals worth stood at Rs 58,638 crore, while the import of minerals is worth Rs 434,925 crore, about 8-9 times more. Moreover, Indian miners are not able to export many minerals due to levy of heavy export duty”, explained Duggal of FIMI.

With focus on infrastructure and domestic manufacturing, India has set a steel production target of 300 million tonne of crude steel by 2030-31. This means the industry needs to increase the present capacity by 2.11 times from 142 million tonne to 300 million tonne in the next 11 years.

This translates into annual requirement of 11 million tonne of manganese ore and 5 million tonne of chrome ore, according to the National Steel Policy (NSP) 2017.

Despite having a total production capacity of 5.15 million tonne per annum in the ferro-alloy industry, this industry has been battling a slowdown in the past five years (2013-18), with production of ferro-chrome stagnant at 1 million tonne, ferro-manganese at 0.52 million tonne and ferro-silicon at 0.09 million tonne.

Ferroalloy production is an important part of the manufacturing chain between mining and steel and alloys and not a single steel grade is produced without ferroalloys, said experts.

India has manganese ore to the tune of 496 million tonne and chrome ore to the tune of 344 million tonne as on April, 2015, said FIMI. However, the country is currently importing these minerals.

A demand-supply mismatch in the ferro-alloy industry could also affect domestic steel production further. The latter is already reeling under production cuts due to weak demand scenario in the domestic market.

Among the top steel producers in the country, Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel reported a drop in crude steel production for November by 7 per cent on year-on-year basis to 12.90 million tonne with long steel production dropping by 14 per cent on year-on-year basis in the period under review.

Source: Maalaimalar