Khandadhar not for Posco: Centre

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government’s hope of handing over Khandadhar mines to Posco without going through bidding process belied today after the Centre formally apprised it of the decision to finally auction the mines as per the recent amendments incorporated in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) or MMDR Act.

Though the State government had taken up with Union Mines ministry the case of the South Korean major describing it as an “international commitment”, the Centre decided to follow the norms laid down in the amended Act and put Khandadhar mines under the hammer.

“We had requested the ministry of Mines to consider the Posco case specially taking it as international commitment. But, the union minister is now saying that Khandadhar would be auctioned as per the amended Mines and Minerals Act”, Odisha mines minister Prafulla Mallik said.

After land acquisition and sourcing water, today’s development has come as another major hurdle for the steel behemoth in commissioning its Jagatsighpur project, touted as the biggest FDI project of the country. Sources said Posco may find it difficult to acquire the mines as it would not be viable for it to emerge as the highest bidder in the auction.

Posco-related issues were raised during the bilateral talks between prime minister Narendra Modi and the South Korean President during the latter’s visit to India last year. Modi had even promised the visiting dignitary to resolve all bottlenecks in coordination with the Odisha government.

The company authorities had also met the PM on January 20 this year and discussed the problems they are facing in implementing the Odisha project. But the Centre has chosen to strictly go by the rule book in the matter.