ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel May be Interested in Afghanistan Mine

ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel Ltd. and Essar Group are among companies expected to be interested in the Hajigak iron ore mine in Afghanistan, one of the nation’s richest known mineral fields, its mines minister said.

Afghanistan is expecting interest from at least five companies in the deposit, Wahidullah Shahrani told reporters today in New Delhi, after meeting his Indian counterpart B.K. Handique. The Jindal Group and Ispat Industries Ltd. have also shown interest, he said.

Afghanistan’s mines ministry said in September it would restart the bidding process for the rights to develop the Hajigak deposit after an earlier attempt failed to attract major companies. The deposit, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of capital Kabul, has 2 billion metric tons of reserves, Shahrani said today.

“We’ve had good communication with these companies,” the minister said. “These companies are at liberty to export the entire output from the mines.”

Hajigak has 10 percent of the country’s iron ore reserves, Shahrani said, citing initial geological estimates.

Expressions of interest for the mine close on Jan. 13, he said. The country will also tender two copper deposits in June or July, the minister said, without elaborating.

Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. will “place our expression of interest,” Chief Executive Officer Vikrant Gujral said. “Our plans thereafter will depend on the due diligence of the asset.”

Vinod Mittal, managing director of Ispat, and Vijay Bhatnagar, head of ArcelorMittal’s Indian unit, couldn’t be reached for comment. Ganesh Pai, a spokesman for Essar, declined to comment.

The Pentagon estimates that Afghanistan has mineral wealth valued at $1 trillion, one thousand times the central Asian government’s annual revenue.

To contact the reporters on this story: Madelene Pearson in Mumbai on mpearson1@bloomberg.net; Rajesh Kumar Singh in New Delhi at rsingh133@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Poole at jpoole4@Bloomberg.net.

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