The Forest Advisory Committee has agreed to the transfer of a clearance granted earlier to steelmaker Posco for its Odisha steel project in favour of greenfield plant that JSW Steel plans to set up in the state, people aware of the development said.
JSW Steel had pitched to build a the 13.2MT plant at the site in Jagatsinghpur once allocated to Posco for its proposed steel project.
In 2017, South Korea’s Posco had abandoned the project.
The state government had agreed to hand over 2,968 ha of this land in Jagatsinghpur to JSW.
The persons cited earlier said on the condition of anonymity that the minutes of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting are yet to be uploaded on the ministry of environment and forest and climate change (MoEFCC) website.
An official of state’s industry department said the FAC meeting was to take up the matter on August 16, and that he believed the transfer has been cleared.
JSW Steel could not be contacted for a comment on the matter.
The controversial patch had tested the strength and scope of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 when Posco had set out to build its plant. Naveen Patnaik’s government had not settled community or individual forest rights that the Act required it to implement, on the presumption that the largely non-tribal locals could not make such claims and the land, sand dunes on which betel leaves were being cultivated, was government-owned
Years of resistance eventually ended with the MoEFCC granting the project a 30-year clearance on May 4, 2011 on “grounds of cooperative federalism”.
However, Posco abandoned its plan—at $12 billion, it would have been India’s largest FDI then—when the Narendra Modi government changed laws mandating auctions of iron ore mines. Posco had waited for 10 years to get exploration rights to the Khandadhar iron ore deposit. The 2015 amendment, however, killed its hopes.
JSW, with an 18-million tonne annual capacity of steel, requires 23 million tonnes of iron ore for its plants. It is expected to be a keen participant in the upcoming auctions of mines in Odisha. The company is already preparing to lay a 30-million tonne slurry pipeline to carry iron ore from mines in Odisha’s Joda and Barbil districts in the north to its pellet plant in Jajpur, Brahmani River Pellets, acquired in December 2017. It has also invested in two berths at the Paradip Port.
The transfer, possibly a first for a industrial project, is believed to have taken a cue from the transfer of clearances granted to the quashed coal blocks.
The FAC, a body under the MoEFCC that vets applications for forest diversion, had earlier insisted on a no-objection certificate from Posco. The NOC has been submitted, claimed senior government officials in the state ministry of industries.
JSW Utkal, the subsidiary the company has set up for its Odisha plans, will build a 13 MT plant in phases, a captive power plant and a jetty at the mouth of the Jatadhari river. Resistance for the project this time around is almost muted.