Bhubaneswar, June 8: The BJP is opposed to leasing out Khandadhar iron-ore mines in Sundargarh district to Posco for its eight-million-tonne steel plant being set up near Paradip. However, the state government has already recommended to the Centre in favour of the lease.
Union tribal affairs minister Jual Oram, who represents Sundargarh in the Lok Sabha, today said: “I will take up the matter with the Union ministry of environment and forests not to grant mining lease to Posco.”
Oram, who is opposed to Khandadhar mines being given to anyone, said: “My stand remains unchanged. Big projects should not be allowed at the cost of large-scale displacement or natural resources.”
“I will pursue the Centre not to push for any project that is neither environment-friendly nor favoured by the people,” the tribal leader said.
Senior BJD leader and excise minister Damodar Rout said: “It is good that we now have two ministers from Odisha in the Union cabinet. But one would expect them to work in the interests of the state instead for that of their own party.”
Rout said the local people were not opposing the Posco project, “only vested interests are working against it”.
The Naveen Patnaik government made it clear to the Centre in March this year that it had no objection in granting the Khandadhar mines to Posco.
Allocation of Khandadhar mines has been a major issue for the project that has remained stuck for the last eight years due to various regulatory procedures and delays in land acquisition.
The Posco project, which has got environment clearance in January, was originally scheduled to come up on 4,004 acres near Paradip, but strong opposition from a section of the local residents forced it to restrict its plans to the construction of an eight-million-tonne steel plant on 2,700 acres in the first phase.
The biggest hurdle to the project, however, is the mining issue as the plant cannot function without raw material.
The issue of Khandadhar mines has been contentious from the beginning. The recommendation of the state government in favour of the company twice met with resistance with the issue reaching the court.
The ball is now in the Centre’s court following a Supreme Court observation. The Centre has sought the opinion of the state government that has again favoured Posco for the grant of Khandadhar mining lease.
About the Polavaram project, the Oram said that the state government was not fighting the issue properly.
“I will fight against displacement of tribals by the project. I will extend whatever support and cooperation needed by the state government in the interest of the state,” said Oram.
The ruling BJD is against the execution of the Polavaram project in its present form as it threatens to inundate a large number of villages in the tribal-dominated Malkangiri district bordering the Seemandhra region.