Korean steel major Posco has begun checking out West Bengal, raising hopes of the State hosting an investment by Korea’s biggest steel company whose plans to set up a 12 million tonne plant in Orissa is in a limbo.

Posco officials on Monday visited the Kulti Growth Works of the Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) near Asansol in West Bengal. The Growth Works has capacity to make mostly non-ferrous castings as well as some steel castings.

Sources told The Hindu that talks had been held between the officials of Posco and SAIL. The Kulti Works, which has separated its entire workforce through a VRS, has in its possession unencumbered land — one of the most prized pre-requisite of an industrial project in India now.

Strategic alliance

When contacted, SAIL’s official spokesperson said that the company had no comments to make on this issue. However, sources confirmed that projects had been discussed between the two steel majors, although matters were very preliminary.

It may be mentioned that Posco has a memorandum of understanding with SAIL for establishing a strategic alliance for aligning and cooperating in a wide range of strategic business and commercial interest areas.

Key officials in the Orissa Government, however, saw no reason for worry at this development expressing confidence that the Korean major will not ‘leave Orissa’. Posco which had signed its memorandum of understanding with the State in 2005 has already been recommended for a prospecting licence for the Khandahar iron ore deposits. Moreover, officials feel that with the recent receipt of the Stage-II clearance for forest, the project was in a takeoff stage.

Resistance by landlosers in the seven villages that are located on the 4,000 acres of the project area in Jagatsinghpur district has clouded the project’s progress.

When contacted, Bangsagopal Chowdhury, the CPI(M) parliamentarian from this area, told The Hindu that at one time Kulti Growth Works was one of the biggest spun pipe units in this region. He said that he had been trying to bring in some investment here and had written to the Steel Minister Vir Bhadra Singh about three months ago to which the minister had replied that there was no concrete proposal before the ministry at present. “I had also taken up the matter with the former steel minister Ram Vilas Paswan,” he said, expressing happiness about the visit of Posco officials.

Posco India sees the Indian market as one with huge potential as much for the growing market for steel (mainly for infrastructural projects) as also for the country’s mineral resources. However, its Rs. 52,000-crore project, seen as the single largest dose of foreign direct investment, faced resistance from landlosers making Posco’s plan go haywire.

Keywords: PoscoWest BengalSAIL