MUMBAI Iron ore miner Sesa Goa Ltd SESA.NS expects to start production at its mine in Liberia in early 2014, as it seeks to offset the impact of mining bans at home.
India was once the world's third-biggest exporter of iron ore, mainly to China. Sesa Goa, owned by Vedanta Resources (VED.L), used to ship about 15 percent of those exports.
However, mining bans in Goa and Karnataka have hit production, triggering a 28-percent drop in Sesa Goa's net profit to 4.97 billion rupees in the quarter ended December.
"We are committed and expect to deliver the first shipment (from the mine in Liberia) in the last quarter of FY14 (fiscal 2013-2014) ... everything is progressing satisfactorily," Managing Director P.K. Mukherjee said.
Sesa Goa's financial year starts on April 1.
The company had completed 48,000 meters of drilling at the Liberian site as of December last year. Its initial production target for the mine is 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA).
Sesa Goa expects to get permission to re-start mining operations at its 2.3 MTPA mine in Karnataka, shut by the Supreme Court in July 2011, in the near future.
The court banned mining in Goa and Karnataka after allegations of illegal mining.
"The moment we get the clearance from the Supreme Court, we will put (in) our first shovel," said Mukherjee, adding he aimed to produce 400,000-500,000 tonnes of iron ore per day from the Karnataka operations, whose case hearing is scheduled next week in the top court.
Indian iron ore output, exports since 2000/01
Sesa Goa said about 3.5 million tonnes of China-bound iron ore was lying unsold in Goa, after the court ordered the ban along with restrictions on movement of material.
Mukherjee estimated India's iron ore exports would fall to around 27-30 million tonnes this financial year, compared with an annual average of 100 million tonnes, and said South African and Australian miners were moving in to fill the gap.
"It will be (a) hard task to regain that market ... Australians and South Africans are happily going to the banks," he said.
Analysts say India has lost vast swathes of its $15 billion of iron ore exports to overseas players like Vale (VALE5.SA), Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) and BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) (BLT.L).
(Editing by Mark Potter)