World’s fourth largest steel maker Posco’s Rs 54,000-crore project in Orissa may get off the ground by January next year as the state government is “actively working” to remove the hurdles coming in the way of the mega steel plant.

“Orissa government is actively working to remove hurdles in the path of the Posco’s proposed 12 Million Tonnes Per Annum project so that the company can have the groundbreaking ceremony in next 2-3 months, may be by January end,” Steel Secretary Pramod Kumar Rastogi said.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak, who is likely to visit Posco’s proposed plant site in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa, may attend the ceremony. Myung-bak is scheduled to visit India as a guest for the Republic Day in January. The Centre had recently written a letter to the state government regarding Myung-bak’s visit to Orissa.

Posco-India CMD Choon-Kuhn Know had recently said the company is planning to start ground levelling work at the site by January 2010.

Posco entered into an agreement with the Orissa government to set up a steel plant five years ago but the project has been bogged down by land acquisition problems and regulatory hurdles

The outgoing Secretary said Posco as also ArcelorMittal should involve themselves actively in a “dialogue process” with locals and negotiate with them.

“The companies have to involve themselves directly in the negotiation process. Government is actively working, but if these companies involve themselves directly, educate people about their compensation packages, this would expedite the process,” he said.

He said Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh has suggested the locals should be involved in the venture in more ways than just monetary compensation for their land.

“The Minister said if after 30 years, the companies wind up their businesses, provisions should be there that locals can be given back their lands,” Rastogi added.

Both ArcelorMittal and Posco are facing stiff resistance from the locals in acquiring land for their projects. Posco had earlier said it would slightly alter the site of its proposed plant in the state.

Last week, ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO L N Mittal said the options are open with the company to move out of the proposed sites if they continue to face problems in acquiring land besides the “regulatory hurdles.” The company’s CFO Aditya Mittal said the steel maker is in talks with Jharkhand and Orissa government for shifting the proposed sites for its Rs 1 lakh-crore steel plants.

However, Rastogi denied any communication from the company to the government in this regard.

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