"The steel ministry's considered view is a ban on iron ore exports than selling it at throw away prices. We should conserve the precious minerals and export value-added products," Singh told newsmen here.
As an immediate step towards restricting exports, a "flat 20 per cent" duty should be levied on iron ore consignments shipped out of the country, Singh said. At present, export duty on iron ore fines is 5 per cent while it is 15 per cent on lumps.
Last month, the ministry had written to the finance ministry seeking duty hike on iron ore exports, besides raising the issue with the Prime Minister to contain rising prices and ease input cost of steel makers. Iron ore prices are currently hovering around USD 120 a tonne, up more than 50 per cent over the past year.
When pointed out that the mines ministry has a diametrically opposite view on exports, with minister BK Handique saying the country doesn't have the technology to consume fines, Singh said, "well, it could be their view. We are in favour of a ban. A decision on this will be taken by the government."
Steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi, who was present on the occasion, said his ministry would raise the issue of banning iron ore exports at an eGoM meeting scheduled for July 22. A 10-member inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to meet next week to debate on the proposed Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Bill.
Chaturvedi further said there should be a deterrent on exports. "We want a deterrent, whether it be in the shape of complete ban on exports or increase in duty," he said.
Domestic production of iron ore stood at 230 million tonne last fiscal out of which 106 million tonne were shipped out. The 72-million-tonne domestic steel industry mainly consumes lumps, as it lacks the expensive finex technology required to refine the fines on the lines of China and others.
About 50 per cent of the iron ore produced in the country is exported and fines constitute 85 per cent of exports.