Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Feb 6:
Terming Union Steel and Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar’s statement yesterday that Posco will have to bid for iron ore mines for its proposed mega steel plant near Paradip as ‘unfortunate’, Odisha’s minister for Steel and Mines Prafulla Mallick today said the state government would request the Centre to honour commitments on raw material given to the Korean steel major.
“We have already written to the Union Government on this matter. However, the minister made the remark yesterday. We are going to ask the Union Government to fulfil the promises made to POSCO. The state government had assured POSCO that the Khandadhar mines would be given to it. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too had made a similar commitment. Even Prime Minister Modi had also gave a similar assurance during his visit to Korea. But it now appears that they are backing out from their own assurances,” said Mallick.
“During the recent meeting convened by the Centre to discuss the mining ordinance, we had pointed out that a failure to honour commitments made in the past would send out the wrong signal to international investors. The Union minister’s statement, coming as it does after all the paperwork has already been done, is most unfortunate,” the minister said.
Reacting to Mallick’s remark, State BJP President KV Singh Deo asked the state government how it was going ahead with land acquisition for the project despite the fact that the Mou signed with POSCO expired nearly five years ago.
“First of all, I would like the State Government to answer why it has failed to renew the MoU with POSCO. They have been attempting to acquire land since past 10 years even after the expiry of MoU but are still to complete the process. The Union Government took a decision to open mines for bidding to benefits of the states. The Mines minister is only concerned with the interests of Posco and not that of the state. It is only trying to cover up their failure to renew the MoU and complete the land acquisition. They are now throwing the ball at the court of the Union government. They can take any help they want, but I am sure they would failt,” Singhdeo said.
It may be noted that Posco was previously promised the Khandadhar iron ore mine by the state government for its mega steel plant but the actual allocation never happened due to claims by other players and delays in regulatory approvals. Now, it will have to bid in the upcoming auction to get an iron ore mine for its $12 billion steel project following the enactment of MMDR Amendment Ordinance 2015 that provides for allocation of all mines only through the auction route.
Earlier, the Centre had blamed the Odisha government for its failure to meet the technical requirements before the Ordinance as was sought by the Centre on notified and non-notified areas of the block spread over 2,500 hectares which state had decided to offer to Posco in 2009.