As the political parties are allegedly playing their cards right, the developmental projects undertaken by the Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited (KMML) remain stalled.
The latest addition to the list is the `2,500 crore titanium project undertaken jointly with the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).
Though a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in April 2013 in this regard the project has hit the proverbial wall. The much lauded capacity-enhancement and cost-reduction initiatives, oxygen plant construction, capacity augmentation of the Synthetic Rutile Plant, mining project at the Kayamkulam port and gate collection system have met with a similar fate.
Even as a blame game continues among various political parties over the non-implementation of these projects, the state government undertaking finds itself in troubled waters, owing to increased global competition.
Experts point out that the dismal state of the KMML also results in the loss of abundant natural wealth in the state. P Raghunath, general secretary, the United Trade Union Congress (UTUC-B), said that various political issues and the lack of a consensus play spoil sports in regard to the developmental projects undertaken by the KMML.
“The projects aimed at reducing the cost of the company have been non-starters for several years. Other projects too have suffered similar fates. The mineral sand mining project of the company is in the back burner, thanks to local protest,” he said.
Even though Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited is allowed to mine mineral sand from Neendakara, Ponmana, Kovilthottam and Kayamkulam, mining takes place only at Ponmana and Kovilthottam.
Reghunatha Kurukkal, general secretary, STU-KMML, said that the political parties are involved in dividing the people of the region.
“The protest helps the smugglers, as illegal mining is rampant. Stalling mining also affects the production of the company. In the beginning, the UDF Government had created check posts to stop smugglers, but now they are not being operated efficiently,” he added.
The production of titanium dioxide pigment and allied products totals about 65 lakh metric tonnes globally, while the Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited produces just 40,000 metric tonnes per annum. The company had plans to enhance the capacity to 20,000 metric tonnes, but nothing has come out of it.
Austin M G, general secretary, CITU, said that the construction of the 100-tonne/per day oxygen plant should be the immediate priority of the company, as this will reduce the production cost of the company considerably.
“Unavailability of Ilmenite is a major problem faced by the company now. We have not received any clarification regarding the SAIL and KSIDC joint venture as of now,” he added.