Centre pushes Odisha to expedite grant of licence to Posco

Upset over the Supreme Court's order directing that Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee appear before a Ghaziabad court, the government is pushing for a mining license to Posco, in a bid to placate the Koreans.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has asked the Odisha government to expedite issuance of a mining licence to the South Korean steel major so as to deflect the issue of the SC's directive to the Samsung chief.

The South Korean steel major's Rs52,000-crore investment in a 12-million tonne steel project at Jagatsinghpur has been stuck for the past eight years due to regulatory hurdles, delays in land acquisition and issue of mining leases.

The steel project got approval for land a couple of months ago, but Posco is yet to get mining certificate to start captive iron-ore mining.

The MEA has urged the state government to send the required forms it needs to give to the mines ministry and obtain the mining certificate so that it can grant a licence to Posco, reports quoting government sources said.

The state government, meanwhile, is waiting for Posco to build the committed roads and a school in the area where the steel plant is coming up.

However, sources said Posco will be able to do this only when it is equipped with the licence as that will help them obtain funds for the welfare schemes.

Posco's proposal to invest Rs52000 crore in a 12 million tonne steel plant in Odisha was touted as the biggest foreign direct investment India has ever received. The proposal, approved in 2005, has been hanging fire since as it got entangled in several regulatory and environment-related hurdles.

Prodded by the newly-created inter-ministerial group (IMG), which monitors the implementation of mega projects in India, the mines ministry said it was awaiting the state government's reply on the issue of grant of prospecting licence for the iron ore mine at Khandadhar.

Posco is also armed with a May 2013 verdict of the Supreme Court for grant of a prospecting licence for the smooth implementation of its steel project.

The apex court had set aside a Odisha high court order that quashed the state government's decision to allot an iron ore licence to Posco in the Khandadhar hills of Sundergarh district.

It had asked the Centre to consider all the objections raised by various parties pertaining to the mega steel plant and take a decision.