Author Archives: Sohrab Darabshaw

Two years ago, India overtook the U.S. to become the third-largest steel producer in the world, but now finds itself a net importer of steel in 2015-16.

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To address this and other steel issues, the Indian government has drafted and recently released a “National Steel Policy” for 2017. The policy aims for production target of 300 million metric tons per year by 2030-31, up from the current 122 mtpy, a reduction in imports and also a hike in the current production of a crucial raw material, coking coal.

India’s steel ministry says the policy is an effort in steel circles in India to steer the industry to achieve its potential and a strategy to overcome various hurdle such as high input costs, lack of availability of raw materials, and to try to achieve the 300 mtpy target in an environmentally friendly manner so that the country can reach its correspoding global efficiency benchmarks.

A major disadvantage that the Indian steel sector faces is the limited availability of essential raw materials like coking coal, both in quantity and quality. Most steel producers have to depend on imports to overcome this impediment, mostly from neighboring China.

The National Steel Policy aims at achieving increased domestic availability of washed coking coal so as to reduce import dependence on coking coal by 50% by 2030-31. Under the plan, India is aiming for per capita steel consumption of 160 kilograms per person from the present 61 kg.

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India’s crude steel production in 2015-16 was 89.77 million metric tons. The country’s steel sector, the only silver lining in an otherwise bleak global steel economy last year, faced challenges. Heightened steel demand domestically in India could see it get there. In 2015, for example, India was the only large economy in the world where steel demand continued to grow positively at 5.3%, against negative growth in China at -5.4%.

The Steel Ministry is seeking comments on the policy draft from stakeholders and public.

After filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and subsequently being declared “hopelessly insolvent” by a judge, U.S. energy giant SunEdison Inc. is winding down its operations in India.

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SunEdison is exiting its India business by selling 1.7 gigawatts of wind and solar farms to Greenko Energies Pvt.

Foreign Investment

Greenko is backed by the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and Singapore. The two sites include one with 440 megawatts of capacity already operating and another 1,200 mw of projects still under development including a 500 mw solar project. Reports pegged the projects total assets value at about $500 million. Read more

The Asia Pacific region, especially countries such as China and India, has been driving the aluminum-free food pouches market.

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A new report said an increasing number of middle class customers with greater spend power, were being attracted toward cost-effective aluminum-free pouches. The high numbers could also be attributed to the large populations of China and India. The APAC region was followed by the European and the North American markets, respectively.

Why Pouches?

The report by Transparency Market Research (TMR) said consumers like the pouches because they are lightweight and easy to handle, in addition to being environmentally friendly, not to mention their low cost compared to the more common aluminum pouches. They also offer flexibility and ensure better shelf visibility.

Can aluminum-free pouches replace not only glass and aluminum, but also more common aluminum pouches? Source: AdobeStock/iaremenko.

TMP said many changes were occurring in the food packaging system from the way food is produced to how it was distributed, stored, processed and retailed. Food pouches, used for everyday food products, combine the advantages of traditional, rigid food packaging with modern flexible material.

The aluminum-free food pouch, also known as the alu-free pouch, was designed to have a number of advantages over aluminum including superior barrier property, near-perfect air-tightness, optimal puncture resistance to preserve the organic qualities of the food and diverse options for easy opening.

Aluminum-free pouches are required to be recyclable and easily disposable. Therefore, many companies in the APAC region switched to using them. In Europe and the U.S., a patented Ensobarr barrier coating has replaced the aluminum lamination in packaging boards.

Aluminum vs. Aluminum-Free

Based on consumer feedback, manufacturers in all regions are shifting from rigid packaging options that involve the use of glass and aluminum to more flexible packaging options. One option was the stand-up pouch, currently sees its demand going up due to innovations in their packaging styles using resealable spouts and cap. Near-zero leakage of liquids was another reason behind the high demand.

The report said the aluminum free food pouch market could be segmented on the basis of material type, pouch type, by its application and by region. On the basis of material type, the market was divided into flexible plastic which includes films and sheet, rigid plastic and others. The market can be further segmented into flat pouches, stand up pouches and others, while on the basis of application, it can be classified as vacuum, resealable, retort, spouted and stick market.

Many fresh food packaging companies are also shifting to the aluminum-free food pouch as it offers customization and the scope to create new packaging designs that companies require, rather than a one-size-fits-all can or jar.

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Product innovation and expansion are the key strategies adopted by major players in the aluminum-free food pouch market. Some of the key players in this market are Astrapak Limited, Berry Plastic Corporation, Coveris, Mondi Group, and Sonoco. These companies switched to aluminum-free food pouches as they gained expertise and experience in delivering them over the years.

After more than four years of languishing, some hope’s been rekindled in India’s iron ore mining sector.

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Ore production jumped 22% between April and October, according to figures released by the government. Iron ore production stood at 100 million metric tons during the resurgence, against 81 mmt during the same April to October period a year ago. What’s brought even more cheer is the news that exports, too, jumped 9 times their previous level, to 9 mmt from last April to September, as compared to 1 mmt, the same period last year.

Export Taxes

With a steep price hike in global markets aided by protectionist measures for the domestic steel industry, will India see a resurgence in iron ore exports? Not so fast.

India has plentiful iron ore stockpiled but taxes are holding up exports. Source: Adobe Stock/nikitos77.

The protectionist measures imposed by India’s government previously included an export duty tax of 30% on high-grade iron ore. Many within the mining sector are of the opinion that the export tax must go, or at the very least be reduced, to boost exports. Read more

Anti-dumping actions were once again a hot topic this year. Back in February India imposed a minimum import price for nearly all foreign steel entering the country. This was only one of many anti-dumping actions taken this year with both the U.S. and European Union tightening tariffs this year. — Jeff Yoders, editor

It’s a problem that’s dogged almost all the major economies as well as developing nations – the dilemma of steel cheap imports. Steelmakers in the U.S. have, in the past, not only cried foul at the World Trade Organization but also imposed steep anti-dumping duties on cheap imports from China, Korea and India making their way into the U.S. market, thus further depriving an already-stressed out market.

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A few days ago, as reported by MetalMiner, seven EU nations asked the European Commission to intervene to stop cheap imports of steel, particularly from China and Russia.

India has imposed a minimum import price on most steel products. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

India has imposed a minimum import price on most steel products. Source Adobe Stock/Jovanning.

In India, a market where steel consumption continues to grow bucking global trends, the situation is no different. So, finally giving in to the loud protests by domestic steel companies against cheap imports, the Indian government recently imposed a minimum import price (MIP) ranging from $341 to $752 per metric ton on 173 steel products as a “temporary” measure.

Minimum Import Prices

The MIP conditions are valid for six months from the date of the notification or until further orders, whichever is earlier. The MIP, though, will not be applicable on imports under the advance authorization scheme and high-grade pipes used for pipeline transportation systems in the petroleum and natural gas industry are exempt.

The move seems to have gone down well with a majority of the steel trade bodies and a large section of India’s steel industry, but some have called it simply a band-aid for the hemorrhaging steel sector.

India’s domestic steel production between April-January 2016 dropped 1.8 % to 75.66 million mt, while imports rose 24.1% to 9.3 mmt. Consumption grew 4.2% to 65.91 mmt. For domestic steelmakers, apart from the MIP, the import duty has also been raised to 10% for flat products and 7.5% for long products.

The rationale behind the MIP was explained by Steel Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, in an interview with The Economic Times. She said the move would give India’s steel industry much-needed breathing space to get healthy.

Emergency Measure

Over the last couple of years, India had seen a spurt in steel imports, leading to a decline in prices. According to the Steel Secretary, India had over 400 mmt of surplus steel. All that surplus has put the domestic steel industry into distress.

While imposing the MIP, the Indian government also took care to ensure that downstream users were not affected. That’s why certain categories of steel — required by end-user industries — not manufactured in India, were exempted.

The government’s decision to impose MIP will, however, reduce the benefit of lower commodity prices for automobile companies, according to many experts. Also, according to the engineering goods exporters’ body, EEPC India, the MIP will lead to further erosion in engineering exports. It has thus sought from the government a compensatory mechanism to make up for the increased raw material price (about 10%) for the distressed exporters, mostly in the small and medium-sized enterprises segments.

The Indian government has dubbed the MIP an “emergency provision.” In the next six months, it will be looking at anti-dumping duties  and moving toward more stable, longer-term measures. It will also be keeping a close watch on imports after the MIP, as well as the response of domestic steel companies and consumers.

Indian-born metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta seems to be snapping up metals fast, whether those investments are aluminum, steel or other producers. Gupta’s investments come as competition is shying away from investing in the U.K. steel and other metals businesses.

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Gupta recently announced that he would be investing $148 million (around £120 million) in Britain’s last standing aluminum smelter. Gupta’s Liberty House along with his father’s SIMEC business will be paying $371 million (£330 million) to buy assets that include the plant at Lochaber in the western Scottish Highlands and two hydroelectric plants that power it.

UK Aluminum

The plan is to upgrade the equipment and turn it into an aluminum wheel manufacturing facility. Gupta’s Liberty and sister company SIMEC are part of the Gupta Family Group Alliance (GFG) , and, according to a report in the London Telegraph, “the move is part of the parent group’s strategy  to build what it describes as ‘a competitive and sustainable metals and engineering sector’ in the U.K.”

The Scottish government has supported the acquisition and has guaranteed the power purchases of the aluminum smelter for the next 25 years.

Liberty supplies parts to the U.K.’s automobile industry with clients including Jaguar Land Rover. Lochaber, with a capacity of 47,000 metric tons, was put on the block by Rio Tinto under its plan to dispose of its non-core assets.

The deal will immediately safeguard the existing 170 jobs, generate another 300 jobs directly and about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in the overall supply chain.

This deal marks one of the largest single investments made by the GFG Alliance. It also marks a major step in GFG’s plan to forge a sustainable metals and engineering sector in the U.K. by integrating the supply chain.

Other Acquisitions

Liberty has spent at least $618 million (£500 million) in the past year on acquisitions. In November, it had also signaled its intention to buy some of Tata Steel UK’s specialty steel business.

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The Telegraph says the purchase of various steel furnaces is part of Gupta’s larger plan to complete his “green steel” vision, where scrap steel is recycled in the U.K. market.

Six years its first proposal, Indian mining giant Adani seems as if it’s finally ready to start its $16.5 billion coal project in Queensland, Australia.

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The company recently secured the approval for a permanent rail line for what’s known as the Carmichael project. An official statement by the company said Queensland’s Coordinator-General had given “the latest, and final, secondary approval” for about 19-and-a-half miles of permanent track, as well as a 300-bed camp.”

The permission will add to the nearly 242 miles of heavy haul track connecting the mine to Abbot Point port. Chief Executive of Adani Australian, Jeyakumar Janakaraj, said in a press statement, “We are particularly focusing on the construction of our planned near-400-kilometer (248 miles) rail line to be constructed between the Carmichael mine and our bulk port facility at Abbott Point near Bowen.”

When fully operational, the mine will reportedly be the largest in Australia, involving the dredging 3.53 million cubic feet of soil near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The project will ensure Adani a steady supply of coal to be used for electricity generation, benefiting a hundred million Indians.

The proposed project ran afoul with green groups in Australia, quickly taking on a “jobs versus ecology” dimension. As per some claims, the project is likely to create at least 11,000 jobs, and the company has promised to farm these out to locals, and not bring in labor from abroad.

After getting approval, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, amid protests from groups in Melbourne. Adani has said the project will start in the new year.

Supporters of the project insist mines such as these will provide an economic stimulus to North Queensland.

Matt Canavan, Minister for Northern Australia, was quoted in a section of the media as saying this would be the first time a new minerals basin would be opened up in 40 years.

Adani also announced that it will set up regional centers for providing vital support services for the project and associated infrastructure and headquarters for its rail and port operations.

Townsville would become Adani mining’s regional headquarters, while the Mackay-Bowen area would become the regional headquarters for its rail and port operations. Adani said its shift to the regional Queensland centres would allow it to more directly harness local skills.

The project has faced a lengthy environmental approval process and a number of court challenges. Earlier, this year, it finally got Queensland government approval to mine. Some say, however, that while the Carmichael mine has the final government approvals, there are still a few hurdles it has to surmount.

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An appeal has been lodged with Australia’s full Federal Court seeking to overturn the Commonwealth approval, and is due to be heard in March.

India has brought the world’s largest solar power plant online.

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At the end of November, the world’s biggest solar power plant was completed in the southern part of India and its already generating power.

Spread over 2,500 acres in the Tamil Nadu province, the new solar plant replaces the Topaz Solar Farm in Riverside County, Calif., as the largest solar power farm in one location in the world. The Indian solar farm can generate 648 megawatts of green electricity, while Topaz generates 550 mw. India aims to power about 60 million homes by using solar energy by 2022. The Tamil Nadu plant, built by Adani Power, can light up about 150,000 homes. India aims to produce 40% of its electricity from renewables by 2022. Read more

India’s mining sector has the potential to contribute as much as $70 billion to the country’s economy by 2030 and generate about 6 to 7 million jobs, believes the country’s industry association, the Confederation of Indian Industry.

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A report titled, Mining Opportunities – Realizing Potential was recently released by the CII, though with an added a cautionary note: clearances “still remain an impediment for a smooth transition from auction stage to implementation stage.”

Mining Reforms Having an Effect

The current Modi government initiated reforms in the mining sector, which underperformed during the previous regime, many say, due to red tape. One of the most important steps was the clearance of the National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP) by the government in.

NMEP has the following main features for facilitating exploration in the country:

  1. The Ministry of Mines will carry out auctioning of identified exploration blocks for exploration by the private sector on a revenue-sharing basis. If exploration leads to auctionable resources, the revenue will be borne by the successful bidder of those auctionable blocks.
  2. Creation of baseline geoscientific data as a public good for open dissemination free of charge.
  3. A National Geoscientific Data Repository was supposed to be set up to collate all baseline and mineral exploration information generated by various central and state government agencies and also mineral concession holders and to maintain these on a geospatial database.

While these policy changes have been welcomed overall, there has been some criticism over the implementation. The CII report, for example, talks of the “inordinately long time that is required for obtaining this clearance and the cumbersome process involved therein.”

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The report was recently released at the International Mining and Machinery (IMME) and Global Summit 2016. It said that the Environment and Forest clearance processes take a long time and added that there was significant room for improvement in the clearance system in terms of efficiency, speed of decision making, predictability and transaction.

There’s also unexpected criticism from another quarter on the new mining policy. A report in the DNA newspaper, quoting global miner Anglo American PLC, said the Indian auction system discourages foreign direct investment as the auction process does not provide adequate risk-reward incentive.

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In the report, John Vann, group head of exploration at Anglo, said the auction system makes it difficult to see India competing with other countries where Anglo American invests. According to him, the granting of licenses rather than auctioning off mines would give confidence to foreign investors.

Tata Steel’s Canadian subsidiary recently signed definitive agreements with Resources Quebec and Investment Quebec, the investing arms of the provincial government for investment of $92.46 million (125 million Canadian dollars) in equity and $36.98 (50 million Canadian) dollars in debt, giving an 18% stake in Tata’s Canadian susbsidiary to Resources Quebec.

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Tata Steel Minerals Canada (TSMC) is a joint venture between Tata Steel and Canada’s New Millennium Iron Corp. It will start mining iron or in Quebec, Newfoundland, and Labrador Peninsula, and set up multiple processing facilities, including a beneficiation plant.

After the transaction is completed, Tata Steel and New Millennium’s iron or stakes will be reduced to 77.68% and 4.32%, respectively.

The deal aims to advance development of the Direct Shipping Ore (DSO) property, which straddles the border between Quebec and Labrador, with mineral deposits on both provinces.

Tata Steel Group has invested over $1.35 billion (1 billion Canadian) in the direct shipping ore project to date.

Tata Steel Executive Director, Finance and Corporate, Koushik Chatterjee was quoted saying the investment signaled the Government of Quebec’s cooperation in supporting sustainable development in line with the objectives of its Plan Nord Initiative.

After inking the deal, Tata is positive it will lead to increased production, improving cost competitiveness and the development of the mineral deposits in Quebec.

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Tata said the project — which involves mining, crushing, washing and drying the run-of-mine ore near Schefferville, Québec, — will produce 4.2 million meric tons of sinter fines and pellet feed annually.

The finished product will be shipped to Tata Steel Europe’s steelmaking facilities.