The rod and steel manufacturing industry may save Tk1.6 lakh crore in raw material import costs if resources from the country's first magnetite (iron ore) field in Dinajpur's Hakimpur upazila can be used.
The industry spends around Tk5,000 crore annually on importing raw material from the UK, the US, Australia, and Canada, and the spending is increasing as fast as the country's infrastructure sector is growing.
The Hakimpur field has a reserve of 62.5 crore tonnes of iron ore, Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy, and mineral resources, told a programme on Wednesday.
Considering a 25% recoverable reserve and the current annual demand for raw material (50 lakh tonnes), the Hakimpur field can supply raw material for 30 years and its economic value will be Tk1.6 lakh crore, said the Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB).
But production at the recently discovered field largely depends on the results of a detailed feasibility study, which would take time to complete.
Nasrul Hamid said the discovery of the field would play a key role in sustainable development.
He called on the GSB to create a field for research on extracting mineral resources in Bangladesh.
In June 2019, the GSB, a national organisation to find out mineral resources, announced the discovery of the field in Hakimpur's Isabpur village.
It found iron ore while digging a well on 50 decimals of land in the village, 11 kilometres from the Hakimpur upazila office, in search of mineral resources.
The primary exploration data shows the reserve was found in different layers under the ground in 5 square-kilometres of area in Hakimpur. But layers under 1,300-1,500 feet were found to contain the most important reserve.
In a report in December last year, the GSB said the field's recoverable reserve is around 15.6 crore (156 million) tonnes considering 25% of the total probable reserve.
It said the economic value of the reserve would be around Tk1.6 lakh crore based on the current import statistics of iron raw materials.
At present, the cost of per tonne iron raw material is around $119, said industry sources.
Dr Mohd Sher Ali, director general (additional charge) at the GSB, said their job is to find out mineral resources in the country's territory.
"We discovered the Hakimpur field while doing our job. Now the Energy Division will take the next course of action to develop it," he said.
He also said a detailed feasibility study was needed to have more accurate data on the reserve and develop the field.
Experts said the primary exploration report has a 50% positive reflection on the reserve, but a detailed feasibility study can yield real data.
Apart from this study, extracting iron ore from such depths is another challenge.
But GSB officials said Sweden's Kiruna iron ore mine is the deepest one in the world at present. In 2008, Sweden extracted iron ore from a depth of 4,478 feet.
Md Anisur Rahman, senior secretary at the Energy and Mineral Resources Division, said they would conduct a study in coordination with Petrobangla to get more accurate information about the reserve, but it would take time due to fund management.
The demand for steel has been rising gradually in the country due to growing government infrastructure development projects and private construction work. But the industry is fully import-dependent for raw materials.
At present, steel rerolling factories import around 50 lakh tonnes of raw material annually, said Shekhar Ranjan Kar, group chief financial officer and company secretary at the BSRM.
He said local sources of raw material would be a big relief for the industry.
He, however, is not sure whether iron ore found in Hakimpur is the one factories need.
He said it would also depend on the cost at which it would be supplied to the industry.