Mining approval for Posco divides Orissa’s ruling coalition

January 13th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyBhubaneswar, Jan 13 (IANS) Orissa’s recommendation to the central government that South Korean steel major Posco be given rights to an iron ore mine in Sundergarh district has caused a divide in the state’s ruling coalition, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) openly opposing the move.”We are not happy with the government’s recommendation of Posco. We are not in support of this decision,” BJP vice president Jual Oram told IANS.

BJP is the coalition partner of the Biju Janata Dal headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Political analysts say the rift over allotment of the mine to Posco is likely to put the coalition in trouble as the two parties are planning to face the general elections this year together.

“The recommendation has divided the ruling collation. The chief minister should have consulted his coalition partner before taking such a decision, especially since he has to face a general election soon,” said political analyst Rabindra Mohanty.

Posco’s name for the mines in iron ore rich Khandadhar hills was recommended by the state government Friday.

The Khandadhar region, about 350 km from here, is home to rare and endangered wildlife species like tigers, leopards, sloth bears and elephants. It also has a nearly 800 feet high waterfall.

Orma, who is also a member of parliament from Sundergarh district, said that people in his area will launch a massive protest and will not allow Posco to explore the mines.

“For generations, villagers have been worshipping the waterfall as their mother. They won’t allow the use of the mines,” he said.

Villagers have already formed a Khandadhar Surakhaya Samiti to organise protests.

Posco had proposed to carry out mining in an area of about 6,000 hectares. The state government, however, said it has only recommended 2,500 hectares of area for mining excluding the waterfall.

But Oram alleged the mining activities for the proposed steel plant could dry up the water, damage the environment and ruin the source of livelihood of the locals.

Oram has also been opposing Posco’s attempt to build a $12 billion steel plant since 2005 in Jagatsinghpur district - one of the largest foreign direct investments in India.

The world’s fourth largest steel maker plans to build the plant by 2016 near Paradeep port, some 100 km from here. The iron ore the company plans to explore from Khandadhar hills will feed its proposed plant.

Over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages are against the building of the plant which they say will take away their homes and livelihood.

Posco claims the plant would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs and boost economic activities in the state.

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