In the summer of April 1904, an adventurous team made its
way towards Chanda - C M Weld, the expert surveyor, Jamsetji’s
son Dorabji Tata, and Shapurji Saklatwala. Like expert hunters
they crossed the shikhar territory. Braving the danger of
predators and primitive conditions, they hunted for the precious
metal. According to Weld’s meticulous investigations
Chanda should yield deposits of both iron ore and limestone.
But unfortunately they found that the Chanda district lacked
suitable coal, and its iron ore was meager and too far scattered.
The failure of the Chanda project left Weld expecting to
be sent back to America immediately, but he had mistaken Jamsetji’s
intentions. Having aims set on viable national alternatives,
such material losses hardly affected Jamsetji. Weld was requested
to stay back. The team got their next clue for exploration
from an unexpected quarter. During a chance visit to the Museum
outside the Nagpur Secretariat, Dorabji spotted dark patches
on a geological map of the Central Provinces that indicated
the existence of iron deposits. It was a place named Durg,
224 km from Nagpur.
As Weld and Dorabji climbed the hills of Dhalli and Rajahara
they felt their footsteps ring with a metallic sound. The
area was the richest storehouse of iron ore. With an iron
content of 67%, it fell only 3% short of the maximum theoretical
yield. But this plain too had to be abandoned, as iron ore
is useless without steady supplies of limestone, coking coal
and water; and there was no water there. Nevertheless this
effort did not go in vain. Fifty years later, the same site
would be used for the gigantic Bhilai Steel Plant.