8 August :The Supreme Court on Friday permitted South Korean steel major Posco to set up Rs 51,000-crore mega steel plant and captive minor port in Paradeep, Orissa.A special environmental bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan allowed Posco India Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Korea-based Posco, to go ahead with its plans.
With this order, the apex court has also cleared forest diversion proposal for the plant site which require 1253.225 hectares of forest land.The court while directing the Orissa government to dispose of all the Posco’s applications seeking prospecting licences within four weeks it also asked the state to send its recommendations to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, which would proceed in accordance with law.
The bench also asked the state government to undertake implementation of compensatory afforestation plan under the supervision of a Supreme Court-appointed committee comprising top officials of the state government.
Welcoming the decision, Posco India Senior General Manager Vikash Sharan said, "We reiterate our firm commitment to the project and are determined to move ahead in terms of land preparation and construction activities at full speed."
Posco, the world’s third largest steel producer, on 22nd June, 2005 entered into an MoU with the Orissa Government for a 12mtpa steel plant in the state.
Posco counsel Mukul Rohtagi contended that the state government-owned Orissa Mining Corporation had agreed to supply uninterrupted iron ore and other minerals for its steel project and had identified mines in the western part of the state, some 300 km away from its project site.
"Unlike bauxite mines, there is no shortage of iron ore mines as India exports more than one million tonnes. The company can source raw materials on its own and can buy the same from the open market," he said, adding "We are not dependent on prospecting licence."
Posco’s total iron ore requirement would be pegged at about 600 million tons for a span of 30 years once its plant reaches the optimum production capacity of 12 million tons.
The steel major is eyeing Orissa’s Kandhadar mines, which is estimated to have a reserve of about 150 million tons.
The state government on Thursday has completed the hearing on all the 227 applications for the mine.
Rohtagi also submitted that it required a total area of 1620.496 hectares for the plant site which comprises 1253.225 hectares of forest land.
Senior counsel K K Venugopal, appearing for Orissa government, also supported Posco in saying that not only the state but the whole country would benefit from the Rs 51,000-crore project.
Posco contended that the Ministry while giving clearance had stated that 25 per cent of the land size would be utilised for green coverage as the company expected to grow 2 million trees inside the project area as it had done in Gwangyang Steel works where it had planted 1.9 million trees.
It also added that it had necessary clearances from Orissa Pollution Control Board.
According to Posco, the Central Empowered Committee had erred in linking the diversion project for the plant and port site with that of mining and other linkages, including railway, road etc.
"The present proposal for the integrated steel plant and captive port is a qualified proposal in itself having substantial description of the environmental protection and elaborate provisions for compensatory afforestation," the application had stated, adding the investment of Rs 51,000 crores (12 billion dollars) was being considered as the largest ever FDI in India.