Bolstering the prospect of Poscos much-awaited preferential access to iron ore for its planned $12 billion project in Orissa,the Supreme Court on Friday set aside a decision that had annulled a recommendation in favour of the South Korean steelmaker. The apex court directed the Centre to consider the approval given by Orissa in favour of Posco.
Posco,the worlds fourth-largest steel producer,has waited eight years to get necessary clearances,land and an iron ore mining licence to start work on the plant in Orissa. The plant is slated to have a capacity of 12 million tonnes a year.
A bench of Justice RM Lodha and SJ Mukhopadhaya directed the Centre to look into the issue of giving iron ore mining licence to Posco on the basis of the recommendation of the state government under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
It referred the matter to the ministry of environment and forests for considering all objections raised by other entities over the allotment of iron ore licence in the Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district and take a decision afresh after vetting the issues judiciously.
In its judgement,the apex court also set aside the decision by the Orissa High Court,which had set aside the recommendations made by state government in January 2009 in favour of Posco.
Welcoming Supreme Courts judgement,Posco India expressed belief that the verdict would significantly help to expedite the steel plant project and hoped that the Centre would quickly ensure a final decision on the matter. We believe that this will significantly help expedite the project. We are happy that it has come at a time when there has been significant progress on the land clearance work for the project, Posco India CMD YW Yoon said in a statement.
Trouble over Khandadhar mines has been brewing for many years now. The Orissa government had recommended Khandadhar iron ore mines for Posco in 2006. The mines ministry had,however,sent it back with the advice for completion of hearings of all other applicants for the area.
The personal hearing process could be finally completed on August 7,2008. A total of 227 applicants had applied for Khandadhar mines,out of which 172 applicants participated in the hearing process. The state government chose Posco yet again and recommended Khandadhar mines for it in January 2009. However,on a legal challenge,the High Court struck it down in October 2010. Besides,there have been protests by local inhabitants and also activists over land acquisition.