Orissa Chief Minister Patnaik calls for Centre's support for POSCO plant

Bhubaneswar, Oct.30 (ANI): Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the Centre to see that South Korean steel-maker POSCO is able to set up their plant in the state.

POSCO, the world's third-largest steel maker, wants to mine iron ore in Orissa's Sundergarh district for the proposed steel plant, which aims to produce 12 million tonnes of steel a year.

The project is India's biggest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) proposal, but it has been delayed by over three years due to protests by farmers and tribals who fear losing their livelihood.

"It is the responsibility also of the Central Government to see that such a major plant as POSCO takes off because do remember that it is the biggest Foreign Direct Investment in our country, in the whole country, which will bring not only a great deal of revenue to the state, to Orissa, but also to the country," said Patnaik.

In July, a lower court in Orissa had asked state authorities to review their decision to recommend POSCO for a mining concession, after a local company, also seeking a mining concession, challenged the move.

The proposed steel mill is still awaiting environmental clearances, with a decision likely next month. The litigation over the mining concession is unlikely to hold back the start of the mill's construction once the green nod is given.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist leader, Sitaram Yechury, questioned the validity of handing over the steel-maker contracts for the capacity of 12 million tonnes, despite the firm not requiring it immediately.

"The mines are being given on the assumption that the production capacity will be 12 million tonnes but POSCO itself declared that the 12 million tonne target will be met after a decade or 12 years. They will start with three and gradually expand. Now, if they are producing only three million (tonnes of) steel, giving them mining contracts for the capacity of 12 million, what will they do with the extra?," said Yechury.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) says they will swap off iron ore, now 30 percent... now they will also have a captive port. You have a captive mining, captive port. How much is going out of that. Who will check?" he added.

Last year, the Orissa Government recommended POSCO India to the Central Government for prospecting over 2,500 hectares in Khandadhar region of the state's iron ore-rich Sundergarh district. By Sarada Lahangir (ANI)

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