South Korean steel major Posco’s mining prospect in Khandadhar hills of Sundargarh district could meet the same fate as that of Vedanta whose attempts to mine in the Niyamgiri hills were unsuccessful.
Sources said though Posco has approached the Project Monitoring Group of the Central Government to expedite mining proposal in Khandadhar, uncertainty looms large over the plan with the changing political scenario of the district.
BJP national vice-president Jual Oram continues to oppose Posco tooth and nail while the CPM has echoed the anti-Posco sentiment in the recently concluded general elections. The villagers fighting to save the bio-rich reserve, meanwhile, are treading on the issue cautiously.
Posco has been recommended mining rights in over 2500 hectare in Khandadhar hills which has an estimated 200 million tonnes of iron ore reserve.
The hills consist of a scenic waterfall and the region is inhabited by the endangered Paudi Bhuiyan tribe in Lahunipara block of Bonai Assembly segment. Jual, who contested for the Sundargarh Lok Sabha (LS) seat in the recently concluded elections, reiterated his fierce opposition to Posco.
“At no cost, iron ore mining would be allowed in Khandadhar as local tribals are emotionally and religiously attached to it,” he said. Posco should be ousted from Odisha for larger interest of the State and nation, Jual said.
Pointing out that Posco promises the single largest FDI in India, the former union minister claimed the South Korean company was shown undue favour by BJD Government which allowed the steel giant to grab iron ore reserve at a throw away price. Such lucrative offer has the potential to attract a host of bona fide Indian entrepreneurs, he said.
In such a situation, if Jual emerges as winner from the Sundargarh LS seat and if the BJP forms the Government at the Centre, Posco is likely to face major hurdles even if it manages to get prospective licence for mining.
Anti-Posco activist Kishore Giri said the fight to protect Khandadhar would continue in the coming days.
The State and Central Governments should respect the sentiments of the tribals, he added.