India to Complete Procuring Land for Posco Mill in Two Weeks

India’s eastern state of Odisha expects to complete procuring land needed for Posco’s steel complex in less than two weeks as farmers relinquish their opposition on the proposed $12 billion project.

About 200 acres (81 hectares) out of the total 2,700 acres are left to be acquired from local residents, said Satya Kumar Mallick, the administrative head of Jagatsinghpur district, the site of the project. The entire land could be handed over by June to South Korea’s biggest steelmaker, which already has about 1,700 acres in its possession, he said.

“We’re within touching distance,” Mallick said in an interview. “Procurement has restarted and is proceeding without any problem.”

Posco’s first factory in India, billed as the biggest foreign investment in the nation, has been delayed by eight years because farmers had refused to vacate government-owned land they occupied for generations. The company and the Odisha government in 2010 agreed to compensate the local population by offering more money for land, jobs at the plant and allowances to sustain livelihoods in the interim.

“The process has gained momentum as local people are offering their land following initiatives to reach out to them,” Mallick said. “The biggest hurdle for the project, at least in terms of land procurement, seems to be getting over.”

Rising Demand

Kim Ji Young, a Seoul-based spokeswoman for Posco, said by phone today that the company hadn’t been informed of when the land would be procured.

Posco is betting on rising steel demand from India’s burgeoning middle class and infrastructure initiatives of the government, which is attempting to resuscitate an economy growing at the slowest pace in a decade. The plant will initially produce 8 million metric tons of steel, two-thirds the quantity originally envisaged.

Still, some hostility to the project remains, said Prasanth Paikare, a spokesman for opposition group Posco Prathirodh Sangram Samiti.

“While some are now supporting the project, a large number of villagers are still against it,” Paikare said in a phone interview. “We plan to seek political support in scaling up our opposition.”

Still Waiting

Posco is awaiting a permit from the environment ministry for the project. India’s National Green Tribunal in March 2012 suspended an earlier clearance from the ministry, asking for a review of environmental concerns and recommendations to guard against any adverse impact before final approval.

The company has also yet to secure an iron ore mine for the proposed factory. The federal government had challenged in the Supreme Court a lower court’s order that the province’s recommendation to allot the Khandadhar mines to Posco was illegal. The court reserved its order after completing the hearing last month.

Posco remains committed to its original plan of building a factory with a 12 million-ton capacity, Posco India Deputy Managing Director Ho-Chan Ryu said in March last year. Posco India Chairman and Managing Director Yong-won Yoon said the same day the seven-year delay could add 20 percent to the original cost of the plant.

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