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I will lay stress on FDI up to 100 per cent in mining: Ganesan Natarajan PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari, Business Standard, India

ImageGanesan Natarajan, whole time director and president of Kolkata’s Ennore Coke Ltd, is in Australia to attend the the Commonwealth Business Forum held in conjuction with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth beginning Tuesday. During a brief stopover in Sydney on his way to the venue in Perth, Natarajan, who is part of a CII delegation, spoke exclusively to Neena Bhandari on India’s growing engagement with the island-continent in the mining sector. Edited excerpts:

What would you be highlighting at the round-table on mining?  

I am part of the India-Australia CEO forum, which was formed in May (this year). I am here representing my country more than my own company. I want to make certain key points, especially on the coal industry. I will be emphasising on Indian policies and the liberalisation of FDI (foreign direct investment) up to 100 per cent in the mining areas, mining operational areas.India gives a lot of potential for Australian companies to operate the underground mines if they are well developed and equipped. We lack in underground mining because most mines in India are open-cast. But most of the reserves are located below the city. So, underground mining has to start and Australian expertise would be very useful in that. I will emphasise on FDI not just in coal, but iron ore, bauxite and other minerals also.More than 85 per cent of Indian coking coal imports are happening from Australia. Also, the way the power deficit is happening in India, most of the projects...are coal-based. Domestic production is coming down so the Australian imports are going to increase. By 2013-14, we will be importing close to 100 million tonnes of thermal coal per year from Australia.

You met NSW (New South Wales) premier Barry O’Farrell, who will be taking a business delegation to India in November this morning. Did he offer anything significant that would attract Indian companies to invest in NSW? 

Mr O’Farrell has invited us to invest in NSW. He has promised faster statutory clearances than before for coal or mineral mining in the state to Indian companies looking at investing in the state.

Would India be seeking Australian knowhow in industrial infrastructure development?

Definitely. It is happening, and it has to happen at a much faster pace. For the growth that is happening in India, which is at the moment a little sluggish than what it should be, in the coming decade infrastructure is going to play a critical role in the country’s development. When we are focusing on a GDP growth of eight per cent, infrastructure will be critical. Setting up the infrastructure is very fast in Australia. They have the technology, so for infrastructure like road, rail or port building, we have ample scope for Australian companies coming into India.

How important would be the energy generated through waste heat recovery process in the future?

Waste heat recovery is going to be very critical — not only for the sake of environment, but even as industry holder. We, too, have a waste thermal power plant. It makes value addition to the extent of 30-40 per cent to your bottomline. It is the best option as you also get carbon credit. Any new coal projects should be only permitted through waste heat recovery.

Is India in a position to sell its expertise in waste heat recovery process to Australia?

Waste heat recovery process is very much in the early stages in Australia. So we can play a role. In the first forum, I have emphasised on a project the Queensland government had initiated in 2008. They were to set up a coke plant in Queensland, a state which has ample coking coal available. They had sought our expertise, but for some reason the project got stalled at the inception stage. I will have the opportunity to meet the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in Perth. I will emphasise that this project should be revived.

Are you looking at increasing your imports from Australia or/and investing in Australian mines?

We are already importing coking coal from Australia. Definitely, our company is looking at coking coal assets, but nothing immediately. We are already having some coking assets in the US.I am very much in talks with the mining companies here for long-term supplies of coking coal, but not for acquisitions. Acquisition in Australia is not that easy to get into because of the size they are talking about. The mines, which are pretty small, do not have good logistic support. So again, it is a long way to go.

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