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Posco vows to meet deadline

Seoul, April 14: South Korean steel major Posco has said its Indian project is on schedule despite stiff opposition to its 12-million tonne steel plant in Orissa.

The world’s fifth-largest steelmaker is confident that its experience in building mammoth steel plants will help in overcoming all hurdles to the Indian project.

“Like the Pohang and Gwangyang plants, which are pride of South Korea, what I dream and hope for is that the project in Orissa will be successful and get a pride of place in the state. I reiterate, the project is on schedule,” Posco chief executive officer Ku-Taek Lee told a group of visiting journalists on Thursday at the company’s headquarters here.

“The protest has delayed some of our deadlines, but if you look at the progress of the plant, we are on target. The central government and the state are lending us good support.”

“We are putting all our efforts in building up the plant. Posco is not a company that only talks. We are a company that walks its talk,” Lee said in a bid to silence doomsayers, who are writing epitaphs for the Rs 51000-crore integrated steel project located near the Paradip port in Jagatsinghpur district.

After the first phase of the project is completed in 2010, the company will produce 4 million tonnes of steel. When the entire project will be completed in 2016, it will produce 12 million tonnes of steel.

The agreement signed between the Orissa government and Posco in June last year is so far the single biggest foreign direct investment in the country. It is also the largest overseas investment project by a Korean company that was clinched after 10 months of negotiations.

“I can proudly say that our Gwangyang steel plant is the newest and most advanced integrated steel project in the world. We will extend the same facility to Orissa,” Lee said, allaying fears that the project is in the danger of being derailed by a handful of protestors and some NGOs.

Though senior officials are worried over the logjams in the land acquisition process, Lee said the Orissa government has shown its strong will. However, he has added a rider that the company may have to consider China, a huge steel market, if the Orissa government fails to clear the bottleneck in time.

Posco has been considering many options to expand investments in China, including acquisition and establishment of a new steel plant.

Talking about the rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced people near the Paradip port, Lee said the best way to solve the issue is to generate awareness about the company’s intention through dialogues and consensus.

“Posco’s philosophy has always been to pursue progress with a regional development. The problem of displacement is not unique to Orissa, it is a global issue. We had the same in experience while building steel plants in Pohang and Gwangyang,” he said.

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