New Delhi: A central panel has asked Jharkhand to clarify soon whether the existing and proposed mining leases of ArcelorMittal for its planned Rs.50,000-crore plant in the state fell under a conservation reserve or not.
The development comes in the wake of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) examining the application of the world's largest steel maker for diversion of 202 hectares of reserved forest area in its favour for iron ore and manganese mining in Saranda forest division in West Singhbhum district.
The forest advisory committee (FAC) of MoEF has recommended: “The state government should clearly state whether the forest area falling in this lease is outside the conservation reserve or not as per the Integrated Wildlife Management Plan (IWMP).
ArcelorMittal plans to set up a 12 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) steel plant in Jharkhand at an estimated investment of Rs.50,000 crore. The proposal is stuck for over eight years now for want of regulatory clearances and land acquisition.
“State government of Jharkhand should be requested to expedite finalisation of the IWMP and clarify its stand about the status of forest land falling inside the proposed lease vis a vis draft IWMP,” the FAC said.
Earlier, the panel had sought comments of the chief wild life warden (CWLW) on the status of the proposed mining lease and IWMP being finalised by the state government in January.
However, as per the minutes of the FAC, “No comments have been furnished by the CWLW on the status of the proposed mining lease vis a vis IWMP”.
An expert committee of MoEF has also brought to the notice of the FAC that a floral and faunal study in and around the mining lease is being carried out by the National Institute of Technology Rourkela which will also be placed before the FAC.
Last month, a steel ministry panel also asked its coal counterpart to expedite the process to grant approval for the mining plan of a coal block in Jharkhand alloted to steel company.
“Steel secretary G. Mohan Kumar has asked the coal ministry to expedite the matter of approval of mining plan for Seregarha coal block of ArcelorMittal,” a steel ministry official said.
In July, ArcelorMittal had scrapped its proposed Rs.50,000-crore Odisha project, tipped as one of the biggest foreign investment proposals, due to inordinate problems in acquiring land and securing iron ore linkages.
The steel company, however, recently said that it continued to pursue Jharkhand and Karnataka projects with progress on the land acquisition and raw material security fronts. “In Karnataka, the government has transferred 2,660 acres of private land in the company's name. In Jharkhand, land acquisition is through the state government under the consent award scheme. The requisite consent from villagers has been received,” it said.
Unable to make much progress in Jharkhand, it has already sought the Centre's help in expediting mining lease grant.
The company had entered into a pact with the Jharkhand government in 2005 for setting up a 12 mtpa steel plant.
While the Centre had given its approval to the state government's proposal for granting prospecting licence to ArcelorMittal for 662.95 hectares of land in the Karampada region in 2010, which have estimated iron ore reserves of 200 million tonnes, the steel maker has been facing delays in land acquisition and regulatory hurdles to launch the venture.
Faced with opposition from villagers from the Khunti and Gumla areas, where the plant was proposed initially, the company is making efforts to acquire land at Petarwar in Bokaro district in the state.
The company had also raised the issue of extremist problems in the state.