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ICVL Seen Scouring Australia For Mines

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State consortium International Coal Ventures Ltd (ICVL) is scouring remote outback regions in the hope of acquiring Australian coking coal mine assets, the former chairman of Coal India, which is part of the consortium, said on Tuesday.

"ICVL is looking for a large-scale investment in Australia to supply coking coal to India," M.P. Narayanan told journalists on a visit to Australia.
Narayanan is currently vice chairman for India in the World Mining Congress.

ICVL comprises utility NTPC, Steel Authority of India, iron ore miner NMDC, Coal India and steelmaker Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd. The World Mining Congress is a global body of mining engineers and experts with headquarters in Poland.

Metallurgical coal production in Australia is dominated by an alliance between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi, which yields more than 58 million tonnes per year and accounts for about a fifth of global trade.

Narayanan said India was prepared to compete against other foreign interests with strong government backing, particularly from China, for mines in Australia, the world's largest supplier of metallurgical coal.

Narayanan said ICVL was more interested in obtaining ground to mine coking coal to support projected growth in Indian steel making than thermal coal, which the country largely imports from South Africa and Indonesia to make up for shortfalls in domestic production.

While India has the fourth-largest proven coal reserves in the world, they are low quality and coking coal makes up only 17 percent of total reserves.

In fiscal 2010, India imported 23 million tonnes of coking coal to meet its requirement of around 40 million tonnes, accounting for 34 percent of total coal imports, according to research by Ernst & Young.

The demand for coking coal will only increase as new steel capacity comes online, with India's coking coal requirement expected to reach 90 million tonnes by fiscal 2020, according to Ernst & Young.

Narayanan said while ICVL was formed to scout out coal investments worldwide, Australia, with an abundance of prospecting ground, was the main target.

"Our emphasis is on investment in Australia," Narayanan said.