$12 bn steel project still elusive for Posco

Chinmaya Dehury   |  Bhubaneswar


Posco has been given the green signal by Odisha to mine in the Khandadhar iron ore reserves in Sundargarh district for its Jagatsinghpur steel plant, but setting up the $12 billion project remains a distant dream as the company continues to face stiff resistance from the residents.

The Odisha government has recommended a prospecting licence (PL) for the South Korean major to mine in the Khandadhar reserves.

A day after Posco India CMD Gee Woong Sung met Chief Secretary G.C. Pati, the government Nov 1 recommended iron ore mining over a notified area of 2,082.502 hectares out of the total 2,500 hectares that make up the Khandadhar deposit.

"We first recommended the granting of mining lease in notified area in favour of Posco India. Once it starts setting up its project, we will consider recommending the non-notified area for the company," Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Mallick told IANS.

However, protests by Pauri Bhuiya, a primitive tribal group that lives around the Khandadhar hills, and civil society concerns are likely to hamper the company's prospects.

Khandadhar is also home to a 244-foot-high waterfall, the second highest in Odisha and 12th highest in India, as also to many rare species.

"Posco should not be allowed mining activity in the area, which is full of rich biodiversity. The water flow will be disrupted if mining is allowed. Mining will upset the region's overall ecological balance," social activist Prafulla Samantray told IANS.

Recently, the tribals had congregated at Budhabhin village under the banner of the Khandadhar Surakhya Sangram Samiti (KKSS) protesting against the mining as it would lead to their displacement.

Congress legislator Prafulla Majhi and the CPI-M legislator Laxman Munda also have thrown their weight behind the tribal movement.

Besides, the Maoists appear united against mining of iron ore in Khandadhar.

Also, union Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram, who represents the Sundargarh parliamentary constituency, has opposed the displacement of the tribals.

"Now, I am in the government. I will have to ensure interest of everyone and abide by the decision of the government. However, I will certainly take the issue of tribals to the prime minister," Oram told IANS.

Udit Raj, chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, has, however, said the displaced people should be given proper compensation.

"We are not against Posco project or any industries. But the affected people should be given proper compensation and employment," Udit Raj told IANS.

However, contrary to the opposition from various sources, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan said the Posco project should be set up in the state for the economic development of the state and the country as well.

"Posco is the biggest foreign direct investment in the country. During the (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government, the Posco project was initiated and the Narendra Modi government is committed to execute the big ticket projects on a priority basis," said Pradhan, who also hails from Odisha.

Posco India CMD G.W. Sung said the company was committed to the project materializing.

"We have been waiting for 10 years. We wouldn't quit. No, never," said the CMD, who met the Odisha chief secretary a few days back. - IANS