SAIL, Nalco and JSP among 6 Indian companies in race for Afghan mines
Meera Mohanty & Rakhi Mazumdar, ET Bureau Apr 26, 2012, 12.43AM IST
NEW DELHI | KOLKATA: A consortium of four state-owned Indian companies - SAIL, Nalco, Hindustan Copper and Mineral Exploration Corp - has been shortlisted to invest in new gold and copper deposits in Afghanistan.
Two private players - Monnet Ispat & Energy and Jindal Steel & Power - have also made the cut, opening up the possibility of a public-private partnership for a strategic bid by the Indian metals majors.
The Indian companies are among the 25 chosen from 41 firms from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, UAE, Turkey and Afghanistan.
If a public-private partnership fructifies between Indian companies, it would be on the lines of AFISCO, the consortium of PSUs and private players which bagged the rights to explore nearly a billion tonnes of iron ore reserves in Afghanistan`s Hajigak region.
Jindal Steel and Monnet Ispat, which were part of AFISCO, confirmed their selection on an individual basis for developing copper and gold deposits.
Hindustan Copper CMD Shakeel Ahmed said, "We, along with SAIL, Nalco and MECL, will bid together. The onus is on the private companies to join us if they want to." A SAIL official confirmed the news, but said he didn`t wish to comment "at this stage".
An Afghan mines ministry official, who requested anonymity, said, "The shortlist includes big investors from Canada, Australia and the UAE, and this should ensure interesting and tough competition. We will encourage everyone to participate in the bids."
Negotiations, meanwhile, are on for the Hajigak iron ore deposits, bagged by AFISCO. "Talks are expected to be sealed by July," the Afghan official added.
A Nalco official said the consortium of PSUs has been given access to the data centre. "The consortium will prepare its proposal for investment after studying the data," he added.
According to Hindustan Copper`s Ahmed, the shortlisted players will be issued requests for proposal (RFPs) before they head to Afghanistan in May to carry out due diligence of the gold and copper deposits at Zarkashan in Ghazn, at Badakhshan, and at Herat and Balkhab in Shaida districts.
Expressions of interest for individual or all four blocks are expected by July 2012.
A successful bid for copper and gold deposits will further India`s geopolitical interests in the war-torn country, where it has committed to build extensive road and rail infrastructure cutting across Afghanistan and Iran to ports, from where minerals can be brought home. "No mineral deposit can be exploited without building significant infrastructure, which is non-existent (in Afghanistan) today," said Ahmed.
"The situation in Afghanistan is uncertain today. But there is an opportunity to take advantage of its rich mineral wealth when the situation stabilises and also help Afghanistan develop its economy. These are largely administrative moves that will help us geopolitically when the situation improves," said C Raja Mohan, foreign policy analyst and distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.