In a strategically significant development, Afghanistan today awarded mining rights for three Hajigak blocks located at the central Bamyan province to an Indian consortium led by state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL).
"The Afghan Iron and Steel Consortium (AFISCO) which comprises SAIL, NMDC, Monnet Ispat & Energy, RINL, JSW Steel, Jindal Steel & Power, JSW Ispat has been awarded three blocks...," the Afgan Ministry of Mines announced.
The Hajigak resources contain an estimated 1.8 billion tonnes of iron ore.
"This is a historical moment in our economy, not just bringing huge investment, but also an important step in developing our vast mineral resources which is the key to the sustainability of economic growth in the country," Afgan Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani said in a statement.
The Afghan government had invited bids to award development rights for four mines in Hajigak earlier this year and the last date for submission of bids was September 4.
The fourth block has been given to a Canadian firm, Kilo Gold Company.
The Indian consortium had proposed setting up mines and a steel plant in the war-torn country.
"AIFSCO brings a tremendous array of expertise, technical, financial and physical resources; mining and steel production experience developed over more than 100 years in India and internationally," the statement said.
SAIL Chairman C S Verma said he is yet to receive an official intimation from the Afghan government. "The Hajigak Iron Ore deposits consist of four blocks - A, B, C and D. The estimated iron ore reserves is approximately 484, 930 and 357 million tonnes in A, B and C blocks respectively while D block has small reserves," he said.