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Odisha defends licence to Posco

New Delhi, Jan 23: The Odisha government today defended its decision to grant prospecting licence in Khandadhar mines to Posco, on the plea that it was the “most suitable player” for the project.

Appearing before a bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhyaya, senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi questioned Geomin Mineral’s credentials, saying the company had neither offered to put up a plant till 2007 nor had made any firm commitment about its investment.

Geomin had approached Orissa High Court against the decision of the state government to ignore its claim over the mines and grant the prospective licence to Posco. The high court had criticised the state government for its inconsistent mining policy and struck down the decision to grant Khandadhar mines to Posco.

In the Supreme Court, both the state and Posco’s senior counsel K.K. Venugopal argued that the Korean giant was a better contender. Posco’s entry would provide about 18,000 direct jobs. The company would also invest Rs 52,000 crore.

Venugopal alleged on the contrary Geomin wanted to outsource the project through its plant in Mangalore and thus there was little scope for investment revenue or job prospects in Odisha.

During the arguments, Geomin Minerals opposed the apex court’s suggestion to ask the Centre to make an assessment of all potential contenders for the licence, as under the Mines and Minerals Development Act, it was the Union government that has the power to determine such contentious issues.