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Posco plant ball to roll from April

Bhubaneswar, Oct. 19: Clearing the uncertainties over its proposed $12 billion mega steel plant in Orissa, Posco chief executive officer Lee Ku-taek said its construction work would begin from April 1 next year.

“April 1, 2008 is the 40th anniversary of Posco and the ground-breaking ceremony for the Orissa project will be over by then,” the CEO said in New Delhi after a meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik there.

Coincidentally, April 1 is celebrated as Utkal Divas.

Naveen assured all necessary support for the commencement of construction of the proposed steel plant from the scheduled date. “I’m sure all will go well as far as Posco project is concerned. This is the biggest FDI project in the country. We are committed to provide all support and help to the project which will boost the economic growth of the state and generate employment,” he said.

When Naveen urged the Posco chief executive to immediately start the construction of transit accommodation and training centre for the persons to be displaced due to the project, the latter promptly agreed, said the officials present in the meeting.

Lee also clarified that the project office at Kujang continued to function and it was not correct that the same was being closed.

Posco top brass, who were in New Delhi to attend the sixth board meeting of the current year, met the chief minister against the backdrop of the October 13 incident in which four senior company officials were held hostage for several hours by anti-plant protesters.

Posco, the fourth largest steel manufacturer in the world, had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Orissa government in June 2005 to set up a 12 MTPA green field steel plant near Paradip with an estimated investment of $12 billion.

However, the project has been behind the schedule by over one year due to the alleged failure of the state administration to acquire land because of stiff resistance from the local residents and delay in grant of iron ore mines lease.

Sources said all these roadblocks to the project were discussed at length in today’s meeting.

The chief minister said 512 acres had been sanctioned and around 3,000 acres had been cleared by the Forest Advisory Committee set up by the Union environment and forests ministry. Significantly, 4,004 acres had been identified for the project. Of it, only 193 acres of government land has been handed over to Posco so far.

Apart from the land acquisition problem, the delay in grant of iron ore mines lease has been a major roadblock for the project. The company had applied for Khandadhar iron ore mines in Sundargarh district and the state government had recommended the Centre for granting lease in favour of Posco. But after Kudremukh company staked its claim for the lease, controversy clouded the issue. The court has directed the state government to hear all the pending applications, including that of Kudremukh, for the lease.

The chief said the hearing dates for all the applications for Khandadhar iron ore mines have been fixed in November.

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