Final call on Posco by Jan-end, says Ramesh

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) will make a final decision on Posco's proposed steel plant in Orissa by the end of January, union environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.

South Korea's Posco, the world's third-largest steelmaker, signed a pact with the government of Orissa in June 2005 to build the integrated steel plant. At around $12 billion (Rs60,000 crore), it was billed as the biggest foreign direct investment in India.

But the project, like those of ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel Ltd, has been delayed due to forest laws and stiff opposition from local people unwilling to sell their land.

The Korean steel giant's planned investment includes a 12 million metric ton a year steel mill, a captive power plant and a port on about 4,000 acres of land in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district. Much of that land is in forests.

"We will be able to take a final decision by [the] end of January on the future of Posco's integrated project in Orissa. The project includes three components - mining, steel making and the development of a port. We are hopeful of a final decision on all three segments," Mr. Ramesh told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.

Earlier on Wednesday, DNA newspaper, citing unnamed sources, reported that the environment ministry had cleared the Posco project. "These reports are speculative, premature and baseless," Ramesh said.