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POSCO’s mining licence delayed further as Centre seeks clarifications from Odisha govt

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Oct 18 :

The mining project of the South Korean steel behemoth POSCO for its proposed $ 12 billion steel plant near Paradip port in Odisha has been pushed into further uncertainty and delay following the Central government’s reservations in the matter, reliable sources said here today.

poscoThe sources said, the Central government, instead of taking a decision on granting permission to mine iron ore at the Khandadhar mine in Odisha’s Sundargarh district, has sought more clarifications from the state government, which had recommended the mine in favour of the South Korean steel major.

“They (central government) have sought the same clarifications which they raised earlier,” state director of mines Deepka K Mohanty told reporters.

Mohanty said the state government had submitted its recommendation for grant of prospecting licence for Khandadhar iron ore mines in the district of Sundergarh to POSCO.

It had sent the proposal for the mining area comprising of both notified and non-notified areas.

The central government has now asked if the state is willing to separate it because notified area consideration parameters are different, he said.

The state had recommended 2,500 hectare area in favour of the company out of which around 500 hectares belonged to non-notified areas. Non-notified area is an area which is not recognised as a mineral bearing site by the state government.

“The same points they had already raised earlier. We had said the matter has already been decided in the Supreme Court that the entire proposal has to be considered… accordingly we had sent,” Mohanty told IANS.

“Our stand is to consider both the things combinedly. If they insist, then obviously we will have to send separate recommendations for notified and non-notified areas,” he added.

Mohanty, however, did not give any specific deadline for the government to send the proposal separately. “It may take a little time. I cannot say,” he said.

The state government had recommended to the central government a number of times for grant of prospecting licence for Khandadhar mines in favour of POSCO. The mines will supply raw materials to the $12-billion steel plant POSCO is planning to build in the state’s Jagatsinghpur district.

This is the third time that the central government has asked the state to clarify on the issue.

The Odisha Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick told reporters that the state govt would demarcate the notified and non-notified areas in the proposed mines and if needed  would take steps to notify the non-notified areas for commercial operation of mines.

Incidentally, in January this year, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had said that POSCO’s request for a mining licence was at an “advanced stage of processing”.

But even after nine months, there has been little progress on the ground. The company is yet to start work on its 12 MTPA plant due to stiff opposition to land acquisition and delays in securing permission to mine iron ore, the basic raw material for steel.

POSCO had signed an MoU with the Odisha government in June 2005 for a $12 billion steel plant and port project- touted as the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India.