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Nalco eyes Afghanistan's mining sector

Afghanistan mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani visited India last month and invited local companies, along with global majors like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, to develop the country's resources.

State-owned aluminium maker Nalco may show interest in developing mines in Afghanistan, which is expected to invite global bids soon for exploration of mineral deposits estimated to be worth $1 trillion, reports PTI.

"Everybody should be keen on Afghanistan ... We are right now waiting and watching the situation there. Once the tender is floated. Things would become transparent and clear," a senior Nalco official told PTI.

Nalco has joined industry peers like Vedanta Resources, Essar and Hindustan Copper that are eyeing mining assets in Afghanistan, which is likely to seek global interest in the near future.

"Afghanistan's mining resources are yet to be explored.

We are diversifying into other metals like copper, uranium, zinc," he said.

Another public sector undertaking (PSU) Hindustan Copper has also expressed interest in bidding for mines in the war-ravaged country.

Last month, Afghanistan mines minister Wahidullah Shahrani visited New Delhi and invited Indian companies, along with global majors like Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, to develop the country's resources.

In its efforts to secure mining resources overseas, the aluminium PSU Nalco has already identified mineral assets in Chile, Namibia and Indonesia.

The Navratna company, listed and traded on the stock exchanges, is in the process of floating separate ventures in the foreign countries to buy out the reserves.

In Chile, the company has identified a bauxite mine; in Namibia, a copper mine and in Indonesia, a coal block.

For copper resources, Nalco would bid jointly with Hindustan Copper. For uranium assets overseas, the company may join hands with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, with whom it already has a joint venture to set up nuclear power plants.

Nalco is in process of selecting advisers for such acquisitions. The adviser, likely to be selected by August, would be expected to help in scouting mineral reserves overseas for Nalco as well as completing such deals.

Nalco has cash reserves of Rs4,400 crore to part fund its foreign ambitions.

Besides, Nalco is scouting for resources in Mongolia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Senegal, Surinam, Zambia and Congo.

At present, the aluminium maker produces 1.6 million tonnes alumina from its refineries in Orissa. It produced 3.6 lakh tonne aluminium last year.

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Govt lowers wheat, rice output for 2009-10; total foodgrain up

According to the latest advance forecast released by the agriculture ministry for 2009-10 (July-June), India is estimated to have harvested a record 80.71 million tonnes (MT) against 80.98 MT estimated in May.

The government today revised the production forecast of wheat and rice for 2009-10 crop year slightly lower to 80.71 million tonnes and 89.31 million tonnes, respectively, from its earlier projections, reports PTI.

According to the fourth advance forecast released by the agriculture ministry for 2009-10 (July-June), the country is estimated to have harvested a record 80.71 million tonnes (MT) against 80.98 MT in the third advance estimate released in May.

India had produced 80.68 MT of wheat in 2008-09.

Rice output has also been revised downwards at 89.13 MT in the fourth estimate for 2009-10 from 89.31 MT in the third estimate. In the previous year, India had produced a record 99.18 million tonnes.

The production declined in 2009-10 due to severe drought last year that affected almost half of the country.

The output of pulses, too, has been revised downwards to 14.59 MT from 14.77 MT in the third estimate. But it is still higher than 14.57 MT in 2008-09.

However, as per the fourth estimate, the country's total foodgrains production has been revised marginally upwards at 218.2 MT against 218.19 MT in the third advance estimate.

This is because the estimate of coarse cereals output has been increased to 33.77 MT in the fourth estimate from 33.13 MT in the third estimate.

In 2008-09 crop year, the country had produced a record 234.47 MT of foodgrains.

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