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New green minister Moily clears Posco steel plant-- but not port

New Delhi, Jan 10 (PTI) : South Korean steel maker Posco has received environment clearance for its Rs 52,000 crore steel plant in Odisha, ending an eight-year wait for the project, billed as the largest-ever foreign direct investment (FDI) in India.

“Yeah, I have cleared it,” new Environment Minister M Veerappa Moily told PTI here. “It (the approval) was given about a week back.”

The approval comes a week ahead of South Korean President Park Geun Hye's visit to India.

The clearance will pave the way for Posco to build a steel plant with an annual production capacity of 12 million tonnes.

The Odisha project has languished since 2005 due to problems related to environmental clearance and land procurement.

Officials in the ministry said Posco's project has two aspects --- a steel plant and a port project. Moily delinked the two aspects and granted approval for the steel plant. Environment clearance for the port is pending.

The petroleum and natural gas minister, Moily was given additional charge of environment and forests last month after Jayanthi Natarajan stepped down.

Moily had said he would strive for a balance between economic growth and protecting the environment.

Posco's steel project had received initial clearance from the environment ministry in 2007 and final approval was granted in 2011. A year later, a quasi-judicial body suspended the approval, citing environmental concerns.