India Consortium Eyes Buying Colombia Mines

A consortium of state run Indian companies is holding talks with the government of Colombia to acquire coking coal mines, the chairman of the body said Tuesday.

"We were recently in Colombia and held talks with the government for allocation of coking coal mines on a government to government basis," said C.S. Verma, chairman of International Coal Ventures Pvt. Ltd., or ICVL.

ICVL which consists of Steel Authority of India Ltd., NTPC Ltd., NMDC Ltd., Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd. and Coal India Ltd. is seeking to acquire overseas thermal and coking coal mines to meet the growing fuel requirements of India's power and steel sectors.

Mr. Verma, who is also the chairman of Steel Authority of India Ltd., said ICVL is also exploring the possibility of buying privately owned small coking coal mines in Colombia.

"There is a huge potential for getting coking coal from Colombia.

There are 4,000-4,500 small mines operating in that country," he said. "India is already importing coking coal from the U.S. and is looking at Colombia as another source for future requirements."

Indian steel companies depend heavily on coking coal sourced from abroad with annual imports at around 30 million metric tons, or 33 million short tons.

According to a recent research report by ANZ, India is likely to triple its annual imports in five years and become the world's biggest importer of the commodity, climbing from its current third position.

The consortium, which was formed as a joint-venture company in 2009, has been scouting for overseas mining assets in countries such as Australia, the U.S., Indonesia and South Africa, but hasn't struck a single deal so far. It is in talks to buy a 24% stake in Singapore based MEC Coal.

Last month, the consortium floated a global tender for commissioning a feasibility study on setting up a steel plant and developing coal and iron-ore mines in Indonesia.

Berny Polanía

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