Indian government grants environment clearance to Posco's steel plant

NEW DELHI – India’s environment ministry has cleared South Korean steel giant Posco’s planned $13 billion steel plant in eastern India but has asked the company to spend more on social welfare, an official said Friday.

The clearance was given a few days ago and will allow Posco to go ahead with the massive plant in Odisha state, the official said. He was speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media. He did not give further details.

The Odisha steel plant would be the largest-ever foreign investment in India. The country has been embroiled in fierce debates over how to protect its environment while lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty through investment and infrastructure.

Posco spokesman Jeong Yong-min in Seoul said the Indian government has asked the company to spend 5 per cent of its $12.6 billion investment in Odisha on social commitments.

But Jeong said no agreement has been reached on how much the company would spend on its social projects.

The project is expected to produce 13.2 million tons (12 million metric tons) of steel per year. It has been delayed for years following protests about environmental damage and land procurement hassles.

The Odisha project requires about 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) of land for the steel mill as well as an affiliated power plant, railway line, road, water supply infrastructure and port.

An Indian environmental panel in 2012 suspended clearances for the plant saying permissions granted earlier were based only on environmental information about the first phase of the project and not the entire project.