The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the Odisha High Court order which had quashed State government’s petition to allot iron ore licence to South Korean steel major Posco in Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district for a multi-crore steel plant.

A bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha asked the Centre to consider all the objections raised by various parties pertaining to the mega steel plant and take a decision.

The Court was hearing cross appeals filed by the State government and a mine and mineral company challenging the Odisha High Court’s order on the issue of iron ore mines.

The State government of Odisha and Geomin Minerals & Marketing Limited had challenged the orders of the Odisha High Court which has quashed the notification issuing iron ore mining in over 2,500 hectares in the Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district in Odisha to Posco.

The High Court, on July 14, 2010 on the petition of Geomin Minerals, had set aside the State government’s decision.

Geomin Minerals had contended before the High Court that it had applied for the prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore mines much before Posco.

The High Court had set aside the notification issued by the State government in 1962 reserving all mineral bearing land for exploitation within Odisha and asked to take fresh decision on it.

The High Court had further said that all mineral bearing land reserved by the State government prior to 1987, without the approval of the Central government would not be deemed to have never been reserved.

The Odisha government, which had moved the apex court, on October 29, 2010 on this issue, had contended that the High Court could not have quashed the State government’s grant of licence to Posco as it was under section 11 (5) of Mines And Minerals (Development And Regulation) Act, 1957.

The Odisha government had further contended that Section 11 (5) gives power to the State government to “grant a reconnaissance permit, prospecting license or mining lease, as the case may be, to an applicant whose application was received later in preference to an application whose application was received earlier”.

The State government, in January 2009, had recommended Posco to the Central government for granting prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore reserves.

This was challenged by Geomin and later 16 other firms who have also applied for mining leases also intervened.

Geomin, in its petition, had submitted before the apex court that the High Court “does not take into account the pleading made by it” and “has traversed beyond the pleadings and prayer made by it”.