Steel Authority of India (SAIL) may not get the CRPF security cover as requisitioned by the company to start the Rs 5,000-crore development work of Rowghat iron ore mines in the naxal-hit areas of Chhattisgarh.
Sources said the Union Home Ministry may give the job to the other central forces, like the BSF or the ITBP, as CRPF has extensively deployed more than 80 battalions (80,000 personnel) for anti-naxal operations in the state and may not be able to spare more manpower.
Both Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Border Security Force already have the exposure of anti-Maoist duties as they have deployed their personnel in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.
SAIL had agreed to pay for the security forces.
The steel maker had approached the Home Ministry seeking deployment of five battalions of CRPF for the development work of Rowghat mines, spread over 2,000 hectres and has over 500 million tonnes iron ore reserves.
SAIL had received environment and forest clearances way back in 2009 for developing the prolific mines, located in the Bastar region of the state, but could not make much progress on account of naxalite activities in the area.
The problem is so acute that Australian consultancy firm Hatch Associates, appointed by SAIL to prepare a detailed project exploration report, could not move ahead on direction of the state security department.
The development of the mines would also require felling of around 1.5 lakh trees. SAIL had started the job in October, 2010, but it could cut down only 12 trees so far.
The Rowghat mines are crucial for meeting Bhilai Steel Plant's (BSP's) iron ore requirements. At present, BSP sources its requirements from the fast-depleting Dalli-Rajhara mines. SAIL is raising production capacity at BSP too as a part of its Rs 72,000 crore capacity expansion plan.
SAIL plans to invest Rs 5,000 crore in the Rowghat mines, including Rs 702 crore for laying of a 91-km rail line from Dalli-Rowghat. The construction of the rail line has also faced resistance from the naxalities.