A consortium of seven Indian companies has received a letter of intent from the Afghanistan government, bringing them a step closer to mining iron-ore deposits in the country's Hajigak province, Indian Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma said Monday.
The group won the right to mine three iron-ore blocks in Afghanistan after an international bidding process last November.
The letter of intent is an initial agreement, which will be followed by a formal joint venture pact.
"We hope to sign a joint venture agreement [with the Afghan government] soon," added C.S. Verma, chairman of Steel Authority of India Ltd. (500103.BY), which leads the consortium.
The Indian group also includes state-run NMDC Ltd. 526371.BY) and Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., and private-sector firms JSW Steel Ltd. (500228.BY), Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. (532286.BY), JSW Ispat Steel Ltd. (500305.BY) and Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd. (513446.BY).
Minister Verma added that SAIL is also in the final stages of discussions to build a steel plant in Afghanistan.
--By Biman Mukherji, Dow Jones Newswires; 91-11-4356-3358; email@example.com