Steel minister to press POSCO's case

Inaugurates 4th India Steel Summit organised by the Assocham

sweta-ranjan

Sweta Ranjan | August 11, 2010



Steel minister Virbhadra Singh is all set to intervene to help South Korean POSCO's $12 billion steel mill project get the environment clearance.

Inaugurating the 4th India Steel Summit, organised by the Assocham in New Delhi today,  Singh said the steel ministry would take up the cause of POSCO with the environment and forests ministry so that its construction work in Orissa is not obstructed.

Singh said that while the matter was related to POSCO and Orissa, the steel ministry will intervene and facilitate smoother construction of steel plant in Orissa, which has been pending for five years.

POSCO had signed a memorandum of understanding with Orissa in June 2005 for the 12-million-tonne-capacity steel plant to be built in three phases by 2016, with production scheduled to begin by the end of 2011 at the completion of the first phase. POSCO required 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land in the state, of which 2,900 acres is forested. The acquired land comprises at least 52 betel vines and forest land.

Singh in his speech also asked private sector steel makers to join hands with state owned steel companies such as SAIL and RINL to acquire coal blocks overseas in a bid to meet up their raw material requirement since domestic availability of coal is on the verge of depletion. He said that public sector steel companies have already taken initiatives to acquire coal blocks abroad but in vain. If private sector steel makers team up with them and pool their resources together, coal acreages overseas can be acquired to help steel plants have their supplies of coal in place. The abundant availability of low grade iron ore can be adequately harnessed for making quality steel provided public and private sector steel makers come together and buy foreign technologies to set up palletising and beneficiary steel plants, he said.

“Finished steel consumption in the country remained stagnant at around 52 million tones in 2007-08 and 2008-09. However, the same increased sharply to 56.48 million tones in 2009-10, recording a growth of 7.89 percent on the previous year. The uptrend continued into the first quarter of this fiscal. Steel consumption has grown by 12.2 percent in April-June 2010-11, year on year. At one level, from the point of view of the steel producers, this a very encouraging situation as unlike in many other countries where slowdown in demand has constrained production, our steel makers are far better placed, with their future plans bearing significantly lower market risk,” said Singh.

“I would like to emphasise that a very well co-ordinated and coherent approach is needed with the involvement of both the government and the industry to sort out all the problems which are coming in way of the steel industry’s capacity expansion dreams,” he said.

Minister of state for steel A Sai Prathap said that new steel projects of Brown and Green field should have action plan for maximum production out of minimum land. In other words, since land is scarce and there is lot of pressure, the usage of land for maximising steel production needs thorough discussion, he added.

Simnu Jindal, chairperson of the Assocham National Committee on Iron and Steel and managing director of Jindal Saw Ltd, said that Indian economy has to foster growth in infrastructure. It is estimated that by 2020, India would need a steel production base of 200 million tones as against existing base of 65 million tonnes. In order to scale up the growing demand of steel, it needed to strengthen cargo movement by 2020, increasing it by two and a half folds compared to its current capacity, she added.

steel secretary Atul Chaturvedi, SAIL chairman C S Verma, RINL CMD P K Bishnoi, Assocham immediate past president Sajjan Jindal and IBM India ED Sivaramakrishnan Narayanan also addressed the meet.

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