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‘Odisha committed to Posco project’

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Bhubaneswar, May 25:

Seeking to counter charges by union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman that the Odisha government was responsible for the uncertainty about the $12 billion Posco steel plant, state Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick on Monday said the government was committed to the project.

Prafulla Mallick, Minister,  Steel and Mines
Prafulla Mallick, Minister, Steel and Mines

He said the state government was hopeful that Posco would set up near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district its project that would produce 12 million tonnes per year of crude steel and 11.28 million tonnes per year of finished steel.

“The government would make alternative arrangements to provide raw materials to Posco. The company can get long-term raw material from the state-run public sector unit (PSU) Odisha Mining Corporation to meet its iron ore demand,” said Mallick.

He, however, said that after amendments to the Mining and Minerals Development and Regulation Act (MMDR), the South Korean steel major had not expressed its stand and had not come for discussion about the steel project.

He said the government would discuss with the company if it takes the initiative to resolve the issue.

“It is the state government, not the central government, which has to decide the plant’s fate. Posco has been uninterested in setting up the steel plant at the proposed site ever since the union government made it mandatory that every steel-maker, including Posco, aiming for captive mining rights will have to participate in bidding process. This is in case it didn’t have a letter of intent sent by the state government before the promulgation of the MMDR Act,” Sitharaman said on Sunday.

“The state government had neither sent any such letter of intent nor renewed the Memorandum of understanding (MoU) before the promulgation of the ordinance. Now, the company has to participate in the bidding process to get the Khandadhar mines in Sundergarh district, for which the state government had recommended prospecting licence to the central government,” said an official.

Posco India had entered into an agreement with the Odisha government in June 2005 for 12 million tonne per annum (MTPA) plant. But, following stiff resistance from the locals and various legal issues, the project has yet not taken off. (IANS)