NEW DELHI India's iron ore imports plunged 78 percent in the April to June quarter from a year earlier, according to provisional data from government sources, as domestic supply rose and exports fell.
The shipment data, coupled with a 9.1 percent drop in iron ore imports by top buyer China in June, is expected to drag on global prices of the steel-making raw material that have already shed more than 12 percent so far this year.
India has historically produced enough iron ore to meet its domestic demand, but imports by Asia's third-largest economy tripled to 3 million tonnes in the year ended March 31 after output from top producing states Karnataka and Odisha fell due to a court-mandated clampdown on illegal mining.
Production has since picked up following steps to clean up the sector of practices such as mining outside allotted areas. A 30 percent duty on exports has also made more iron ore available in the country.
India imported 185,113 tonnes of iron ore in the quarter ended June 30, according to figures from the agency that tracks the data for the commerce ministry and provided to Reuters by a top official, down from 826,372 tonnes a year ago.
Final data is expected by end-August, said the official at the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics. The numbers were confirmed by a senior steel ministry official.
Both officials did not want to be named as they are not authorised to speak to media.
India was once the third-largest exporter of iron ore in the world, sending out about 98 million tonnes, or 47 percent of its total production, in the year ended March 31, 2011.
The country's output of iron ore is estimated to have fallen to about 140 million tonnes in the year ended March 31, from 207 million in 2011, after a ban on mining in Karnataka and Goa. Output was 167.3 million tonnes for the year ended March 2012
Karnataka has opened some of its mines since late last year on the orders of the Supreme Court. (Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Himani Sarkar)
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