Korean steel major Pohang Steel company (POSCO) which is in the process of setting up a 12 million tonne integrated steel plant in Orissa, is hopeful of getting land for the plant and mining leases within the next one year.
Company officials said here that while operationalisation of the plant is taking longer than anticipated, the company has not run out of patience and remains committed to the project.
“We are not waiting for things to fall into place but processing them as they ought to be done. A lot of issues have been cleared in the last few months and we expect to get provisional license and start mining within the next year,” said a senior company official in charge of the Indian operations. “On the land acquisition process as well we have witnessed opposition thinning out and only 460 families- some land owners and some enchroachers remain to be persuaded. Unlike what is widely believed, we are not thinking of backing out but instead are closing in.”
“It has been five years since we have been in India and so far we have made almost no visible progress. We have got the environmental clearance and the forest diversion issue will be taken up by the Supreme court soon. We believe in the next few months we will get the fruits of our labour,” the official, who refused to be identified due to protocol reasons,0 said.
The project is the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India so far, with an estimated investment of Rs 52,000 crore.
In its MoU with the Orissa government signed three years ago, POSCO had said it would set up the steel plant over three phases of 4 million tonnes each, with the first phase getting completed by 2010, with steel production starting in 2011. But Posco says that target is unlikely to be met. “It takes a little over three years for a steel plant to be constructed, so it will take us that much time after we get the land and mining leases to start marketing our products,” an official pointed out.
The Orissa government had announced a ground-breaking ceremony for the project on April 1 this year, which had to be postponed. The company however is not perturbed over this. “We never planned such a ceremony and had only said that if the government and villagers wanted to do it, we will also do it. For us it is not of great significance that it did not take place after all,” the official said.