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Maoist attack creates terror among iron ore miners

By Sujeet Kumar, IANS,

Raipur : Businessmen, especially iron ore miners, in Chhattisgarh are a terrified lot after the deadly Maoist attack Tuesday in the state’s Dantewada district in Bastar region, described as the “key to India’s steel sector growth”.

It is in Dantewada district where India’s largest iron ore producer and exporter in the public sector, National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), produces nearly 80 percent of its annual iron ore output.

“The NMDC production has been unaffected Tuesday in Dantewada but there is absolute panic,” S.P. Himanshu, company deputy general manager based in Dantewada, told IANS.

He said: “NMDC has been routinely suffering big losses as Maoists stop iron ore transportation from NMDC Bailadila mines to Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh at will”.

“This brutal attack has terrorised iron ore miners to a great extent. I always maintain that Bastar, which has nearly 20 percent of India’s iron ore stocks, is fast slipping into Maoist hands and now it is up to the Indian government do something urgently,” Raju Nehlani, a private iron ore miner, told IANS.

Nehlani said though private miners were hardly ever targeted in Chhattisgarh by Maoists, they often burn mining equipment and transporting vehicles. Also, employees work under extreme tension and all the time fear attacks from rebels.

But another private miner said: “I pay Rs.42 per tonne to Maoists as extortion money and the rebels raise the sum annually by 20 percent”.

“The growing activities of Maoists in Bastar are threatening iron ore mining in the sprawling forested region. The iron ore miners fear that the authorities will lose control over the area in the next five years and growth in the steel sector will suffer,” said Ashok Surana, head of Mini Steel Plant Association.