South Korean ambassador meets Orissa CM, moots scaling down POSCO project

Posco India is ready to exclude disturbed villages of Dhinkia panchayat at the site of its proposed 12 million tonne steel mill in Odisha for pushing ahead the mega project, South Korean ambassador to India Kim Joong-Keun said here.

“We are prepared to exclude the disturbed area consisting of two villages at the project site if the affected people do not wish to cede land,” he told reporters after his meeting with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The envoy raised concern over the tardy pace of the project but said he still felt hopeful on the execution of the steel plant.

“If we get additional land from the state government, we may start construction work on the project in the second half of the year,” Joong-Keun said.

The Posco project needed 4,004 acres of land in all of which 2,000 acres had been acquired. The steel behemoth had sought additional 700 acres of land to resume construction activity.

“I had detailed discussions with the Chief Minister. The thrust of the talks was on Posco but we also talked about India-South Korea bilateral ties,” he added.

At a separate forum, the ambassador said Odisha occupied a place of pride in Korea-India relations being home to Posco’s proposed $12 billion steel plant project, adding, successful completion of the project will have significant impact on the bilateral ties between the two countries.

We have a good bilateral relationship even without Posco, but it would have been better had the project got completed,” said Joong-Keun during a interactive session here with industrialists and media at an event, organised by Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

Expressing his disappointment over the inordinate delay in implementation of the Posco project, he said, it is a test for India as well as Odisha to handle big investment projects.

“The image of Odisha is not very good in Korea due to the Posco project and also in the international community, as I have been asked by ambassadors from all other countries in New Delhi, about the fate of the project. Posco project issue is not a local issue now, it has become an international one,” the South Korean envoy said.

The state government has invited Posco-India’s top officials to discuss with it on May 5 the finalisation of renewal of MoU which expired nearly two years ago.

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South Korean ambassador to India Kim Joong-Keun today said that steelmaker Posco can scale down its proposed 12 million tonne steel plant in Jagatsinghpur district if it gets less amount of land than it required.

Keun who met chief minister Naveen Patnaik, said Posco was eager to start work on the project by second half of this year. He said Posco can start work even if it has not got the assured land of 3719.22 acre needed for the project. “We just need 700 acres more to start work. If needed we can scale down the project,” he said. Posco needs 3719.22 acre of land for its 12 million tonne steel mill and has so far acquired over 2000 acres, all government land.

The land acquisition also received a jolt after Orissa High Court asked the State government to withdraw the notification from the acquisition of 438 acres of private land of proposed project area, pointing out several irregularities in land acquisition for the Posco plant and violation of fundamental rights of landowners in the project area.

Keun said if the SC verdict on getting the mining rights of Khandadhar iron ore mines does not go in Posco’s favour then the company would import ore from other States and if necessary from outside India.

Posco’s bid to get Khandadhar iron ore reserves in Sundergarh district is now locked in court battle after the Orissa High Court struck down the government’s move to allot the Khandadhar mines to the company. The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.

[Sources – Business Standard & Indian Express]


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