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Mittal’s Orissa plan gathers speed

Calcutta, Feb. 11: ArcelorMittal’s ambitious steel projects in India will finally start rolling from the middle of this year.

The world’s largest steel maker plans to do a ground-breaking ceremony in Orissa where it is setting up a 12-million-tonne plant at an investment of $10 billion.

“We are really pushing hard. The work in Orissa should begin by the middle of 2008,” Sanak Mishra, chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal (India) Ltd, told The Telegraph.

This comes at a time when Korea’s Posco, which has announced a bigger investment in Orissa much ahead of Mittal, is still struggling to take off in the state because of strong opposition from a section of the local population.

ArcelorMittal has already made a resettlement and rehabilitation plan and presented it to the Orissa government for the government’s suggestions.

The detailed project report is in the final stages of preparation as well. Dastur & Co of Calcutta is preparing the report with the help of 30 engineers from ArcelorMittal’s global team.

“We will submit the detailed project report in a few months and hopefully get the government’s nod on the resettlement and rehabilitation plan as well,” Mishra said.

ArcelorMittal’s confidence to kick off the project stems from the fact that the Orissa government is expected to provide a significant chunk of land for the project.

“The 7,500-acre comprises both government and private land. We want the state to give us the government land as soon as possible,” Mishra said.

Even the private land will be acquired by the state government. There are no plans on the part of the company to go and buy directly from the owner, though it recently received provisional approval from the state to acquire the land. In resettlement and rehabilitation, the company promises to comply with the policy of the state government.

The other crucial factor that could help ArcelorMittal make fast headway is its plans to set up a rehabilitation colony for the displaced people before the land is acquired.

“We are sensitive to the displacement issue and want to address it upfront,” Mishra claimed.

Jharkhand plans

While ArcelorMittal’s Orissa project looks to be on track, the company is yet to make much progress in Jharkhand.

The company, owned by Indian billionaire Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jharkhand government in October 2005 before it went and signed a similar deal with Orissa in December 2006.

Mittal had shared his frustration in an interview to The Telegraph earlier this year when he declined to set a timeline for any of the two projects.

It now seems that Orissa will steal a march over Jharkhand which is yet to come up with a resettlement and rehabilitation policy.

In the absence of this guideline, none of the proposed new plants, be it by Tata Steel or Mittal, is likely to come up in Jharkhand.

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