Tata Steel vice-president A D Baijal said yesterday the Mumbai, India-based company was looking at Australia in particular for a coal mine acquisition, Crisil Marketwire reported.
The company already has a 5% interest in the Carborough Downs Coal Project in Queensland.
Baijal said Tata would utilise its share of coal supplies from Carborough to meet the needs of its steel plant in Jamshedpur, India.
He said coking coal was in short supply in India, forcing most steel makers to import the raw material.
The emerging market of China – as well as the more established markets of Japan and Korea – has also looked to invest in Australian mines to sure-up supplies, as population growth continues to fuel the demand for electricity and steel.
In 2005 Australian-listed Felix Resources and Japan's Sojitz Corporation officially opened the $A90 million Minerva coal mine in Queensland's Bowen Basin.
The mine is now ramping up to 2.5 million tonnes a year and exporting to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and India.
Meanwhile, the Ensham Resources coal mine near Emerald, Queensland, is owned by Korean, Japanese and Chinese investors and its expansion opportunities rely on continued growth in demand for steaming coal from Japan, Korea, China and India.
The mine supplies coal to Japan as well as to Korea's five power companies. Up to 25% of sales are to India and China, with Ensham coal also sold into other Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
The Austar mine in New South Wales was bought at the end of 2004 by Chinese major Yanzhou Coal Mining Company, a group that successfully uses longwall top coal caving (LTCC) techniques in China to produce up to 10Mt from some of its mines.
Roadway development mining to prepare for longwall installation began in June last year and the mine is expected to be in production by August 2006.