A Tribute - Prof Sampath Iyengar

Kudremukh,a peak in Sahyadri range in Chikamagalur District, Karnataka, having very rich deposits of Magnetite Ore was first discovered by Shri P Sampath Iyengar a renowned Geologist.

The idea of beneficiating the iron ore was first proposed when in 1968 several Japanese companies came together with the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), a Government of India undertaking, evincing an interest in such a project. Pilot studies suggested that the surface ore with 38% iron could be enriched to a concentrate of 67% iron with available new technologies. The concentrate could be transported to Mangalore, which lies on the coast of Arabian Sea, 110 k.m. to the west of Kudremukh. Due to promulgation of some local anti-pollution laws in Japan the project was shelved. Interest was revived in early 1970 when Iran drew up its plans for an ambitious domestic steel industry and was looking for a reliable supplier of Iron ore. Kudremukh seemed to be ideal, abundant and just across the sea and an agreement was reached.

Thus on 2nd April 1976 ‘Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited’ (KIOCL) was formed under Ministry of Steel and Mines. Political upheaval in Iran resulted in expulsion of Iranian Government which placed the project in jeopardy. Hence Government took initiative to finance the completion of Project. The 7.5 million ton annual capacity project at Kudremukh along with the 110 km slurry pipeline and filtration units at Mangalore was completed in August 1980. As Iran failed to lift the Iron ore KIOCL had to look for alternate markets and also for setting up Pellet plant at Mangalore. The Pellet Plant had started its operation at Mangalore on April 1987.

The Magnetite Iron Ore concentrate mined and beneficiated at the captive mines of Kudremukh was used for Pellet making for more than three decades till Decemebr 2005. KIOCL stopped its mining operations at Kudremukh with effect from 1st January 2006 in pursuant to Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Judgement, as the area was declared National Park.

The Kudremukh mine was the captive source of Iron ore for the production of Pellets at Mangalore plant. Subsequent to the stoppage of mining operation at Kudremukh, KIOCL is procuring Hematite Iron ore from NMDC’c Bailadilla Mines in Chattisgarh state to feed its Pellet plant. The process modification was carried out to the plants at Mangalore for processing Hematite Iron Ore by utilising in-house expertise.

A Blast Furnace Unit with a capacity of 2.16 lakhs tonnes of Pig Iron was set up at Mangalore under Joint Venture namely KISCO which was later merged with KIOCL on 1st April 2007. Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited changed its name to 'KIOCL Limited' on 22nd January 2009.

The main achievements of Kudremukh Iron Ore Project are:

  • It was the first mine to undertake commercial exploration of low grade Iro Ore (35% Fe) in India.
  • First fully integrated operation, comprising the entire operations from production of ore at the Mines to Shipment of Concentrate at the Port.
  • A novel system of transport by moving annually 7.5 MT of Magnetite Concentrate in the form of slurry over a distance of 67kms down the slope of Western Ghats.
  • Pellet plant of 3.5 MTPA capacity at Mangalore