Hindustan Copper Limited (HCL) is reviving its captive mines in Ghatshila that were closed since the last two decades to tap a window of opportunity thrown up by stabilising international prices of the metal.
The PSU, already in revival mode with the infusion of about Rs 65 crore, has decided to outsource mining activities to revive the Kendadih mines located between Jadugoda and Surda in the Ghatshila sub-division.
HCL general manager S. Purty told that they have started the revamp process in right earnest. "We are spending about Rs 65 crore for augmenting the capacity of the smelter plant and the copper mines. Apart from Kendadih, we have plans to re-open all other closed mines for which talks are on with the state government," he said.
HCL's management has already floated tenders for the supply of copper concentrate from the Kendadih mines.
HCL's decision — once implemented, it hopes to earn a 50-year headstart — comes after it increased the annual capacity of its smelter plant from 16,500 tonnes to 21,000 tonnes.
Of HCL's five captive copper mines in Ghatshila, Surda mines is operational. The rest, namely Sidheswari Chapri, Kendadih, Patherbera and Rakhamines, have remained shut since the '80s when copper prices crashed in the international market.
Company sources said when Kendadih mines was closed in 1989, the prices of copper at the London Metal Exchange (LME) had come down to Rs 98,000 per tonne whereas the cost of production per tonne in HCL was around Rs 2.5 lakh. Since it wasn't economically viable to continue, HCL was forced to stop mining in those areas.
The price of copper shot up to Rs 3.75 lakh per tonne in October last year. "At present, the international price of copper is Rs 2.65 lakh per tonne which makes the revival project economically viable," said a senior official of the company's marketing division.
D.P. Mukherjee, general secretary of the Jharkhand Copper Mazdoor Union, who is playing an active role in reviving the Kendadih mines, said the company has floated a tender for procuring copper concentrate from the mines.
"HCL already has a copper concentrate plant at Rakhamines. Whoever is chosen after the tender process is through, will then have to revive the Rakhamines-based plant to produce a minimum of 350 tonnes of copper concentrate a day," he said.
HCL would use the copper concentrate instead of processing copper directly from the ore procured from mines. Each tonne of copper ore yields only one per cent copper. But, a tonne of copper concentrate contains 25-28 per cent of copper.
© The Telegraph / June 27, 2009