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Mine push for Posco on election eve

Bhubaneswar, April 6: The state government has no objection to the Khandadhar iron ore mines in Sundargarh being allotted to South Korean steel giant Posco for its proposed eight-million-tonne plant in Jagatsinghpur district.

The Naveen Patnaik government made its stance clear to the Centre in March before the model code of conduct for the general election came into force. Allocation of a captive mine for its Rs 52,000-crore operation was a major hurdle in the renewal of the MoU between the government and the company, which lapsed in 2011.

The single largest FDI is struck for the last eight years because of various regulatory procedures and delays in land acquisition.

“As the election process is on, whether the government at the Centre could allot the mines to anyone, is a debatable point. But, the ministry of mines has followed the orders of the Supreme Court and had sought our opinion,” said an official of the state government.

The state government had allocated the Khandadhar mines to Posco-India in 2009, but Orissa High Court had cancelled the order. Subsequently, the Odisha government had approached the Supreme Court.

Setting aside the high court order, the apex court, in its order in May 2013, had asked the Centre to consider all the objections raised by different groups who had applied for mines and take a decision. It is in pursuance of the order, the Centre had asked the state government about its opinion on the mines being given to Posco-India.

“We had recommended the Khandadhar mines to the Centre way back in 2009. We have reiterated our stand. The project is going to be a reality,” said the official.

He, however, refused to be quoted on the ground that the model code of conduct prohibited him from making any statement.

Initially, Posco-India had asked for a captive mine and a captive port for its operation. Officials said that the company was no longer insisting on the port clause, but it wants assured supply of iron ores through captive mines, officials said.

The project will get a major push after the elections. It has already got 1,703 of the 2,700 acres that it requires.

“It will begin construction after the steel maker deposits another Rs 12 crore towards a forest diversion plan. A letter to this effect has already been sent to the company. We have also asked them to submit their action plan,” said the official.


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