(Repeats story issued late on Thursday with no changes to text)
By Krishna N Das
NEW DELHI Jan 9 India's environment ministry
has given its go-ahead to POSCO's planned steel
plant in the country, but has asked it to spend on "social
commitments", a company spokesman said, raising the project's
cost by $600 million to $12.6 billion.
The revalidation of the South Korean firm's lapsed
environmental clearance comes days before the country's
president, Park Geun-hye, visits India for four days starting
The proposed 12 million-tonnes-per-year plant in eastern
Odisha state has been stuck for more than eight years due to
delays in getting various clearances and acquiring land.
The company is hopeful Park's visit will speed up the
project - India's biggest foreign direct investment.
"Though an additional burden has been put on us, we are
happy with the revalidation" POSCO-India spokesman IG Lee told
Reuters on Thursday. "It means the removal of a hurdle for us."
The company will have to spend 5 percent of the total
investment on "enterprise social commitments", Lee said, adding
it was not immediately clear what that would entail. The
ministry could not be contacted outside regular business hours.
POSCO could also hear some good news on its request for a
licence to explore iron ore. Odisha will reply within a "day or
two" to the federal mines ministry on granting an iron ore
exploration licence to POSCO, the state's mines director Deepak
Kumar Mohanty told Reuters.
Reuters reported in July that the mines ministry was in
favour of giving a licence to POSCO, which plans to use locally
mined iron ore for the steel plant.
POSCO first signed an agreement with Odisha in June 2005 to
set up the steel plant on 4,004 acres of land.
It has already been allotted about 2,700 acres to begin the
project's first stage, which involves setting up two
4-million-tonne plants in two phases. But much of the work can
begin only after a nod from India's environmental court, which
in May put on hold felling of trees for the project.
The first phase of the plant may be commissioned sometime in
2018, POSCO officials have said.
(Additional reporting by Jatindra Dash in Odisha; Editing by