South Korean steel major Posco’s Rs.53,000 crore steel plant in Odisha has run into another hurdle with the company again approaching the Cabinet Secretariat’s Project Monitoring Group (PMG) over delay in issuance of the captive iron-ore mining licence by the State Government.
The PMG was instrumental in sorting out issues related to green clearances involving Posco steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district, the largest FDI in the country. It was granted environmental clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) in January this year after being stuck for eight years. “Posco has again approached the PMG now over delay in issuance of captive ore mining licence by Odisha Government,” sources said, adding that the matter is being assessed and efforts are on to clear the bottlenecks.
According to sources, the Odisha Government is yet to send reply to the Union Ministry of Mines on the issue of grant of prospecting licence for the iron ore mine at Khandadhar.
Ahead of South Korean President Park Geun-hye visit to India mid-January, Environment Minister M Verappa Moily had accorded clearance to Posco after delinking it from the port project. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured Geun-hye that all hurdles related to the project will be cleared.
But the project could not take off as the Odisha Government has not yet issued any official order granting forest clearance to the proposed steel plant, fearing it may be challenged in the green court.
“The State Government has been sitting on the forest clearance order for it can be challenged in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) by the people,” said Prafulla Samantray, on whose petition the land acquisition for Posco was halted in May 2013.
The company plans to acquire 4,004 acres of land in Jagatsinghpur district and of this, 3,000 acres is forest land. The Odisha Government so far has acquired 2,700 acres.
“Under the Forest Conservation Act, Posco cannot start work in non-forest area till it gets forest clearance for the diversion of the required forest land. The State Government has said that they are incompetent to issue the order,” said Environment lawyer Ritwik Datta, who is representing Samantray’s case in NGT.
The NGT in 2012 had quashed green clearance to the project and has asked the MoEF to review the environment clearance accorded to it in 2011.
The clearance was quashed as the total capacity of the project was for production of 12 million tonnes of steel per annum (MTPA), but the environment impact assessment (EIA) report was prepared only for 4 MTPA steel production in the first phase.
■ Odisha Government is yet to send reply to the Union Ministry of Mines on the issue of grant of prospecting licence for the iron ore mine at Khandadhar