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India’s top court clears Posco, Vedanta projects in key rulings

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By Penny MacRae
Online Link: http://uk.biz.yahoo.com/08082008/323/india-s-top-court-clears-posco-vedanta-projects-key-rulings.html
NEW DELHI (AFP) — India’s top court has cleared South Korean steel giant Posco’s plan for a 12-billion-dollar plant in a controversial case seen pitting farmers’ interests against growing industrial development.
In another key case viewed as a test of tribal rights, the court approved British mining company Vedanta Resources’ proposal to mine bauxite on land held  sacred by locals to feed a 900-million-dollar aluminium refinery.
The plant to be built by Posco, Asia’s top steel producer, in the resource-rich eastern coastal state of Orissa would be the biggest foreign direct investment  in India since it launched market reforms in 1991.
But the plant, which aims to create 18,000 jobs in a poverty-ridden part of the country over the next decade, has stirred violent protests by farmers objecting to loss of their land.
In both rulings Friday, the court imposed environmental and compensation conditions but the stipulations did not satisfy the projects’ opponents.
“The ruling has no bearing on our struggle. We’ll continue our fight against Posco. We’ll never give up our land,” said Abhoy Sahu, head of the group  spearheading the protests against the steel project.
The government has been keen to draw foreign and domestic investment to create job-generating industries.But the shift from agriculture has stirred big debate and often violent local opposition as many projects encroach on farm or tribal land.
Seoul-based Posco welcomed the court ruling and said it would proceed swiftly with the project, initially agreed in 2005, requiring 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of land.
POSCO plans a four-million tonne steel plant and a 400-megawatt power plant. The company has a “firm commitment to the project” and is determined to move ahead “at full speed,” said Posco India senior general manager Vikash Sharan.
Vedanta also said it was happy with the approval of its plan to carry out open caste bauxite mining on what tribals say is their holy mountain, also in Orissa state.
The company had sought permission to mine vast bauxite deposits in the fertile forested Niyamgiri Hills to supply the aluminium refinery it built nearby. Vedanta has been feeding its refinery with bauxite purchased from other Indian states.
The case was seen as an important test of tribal and environmental rights against industrialisation.
London-based Survival International director Stephen Corry called the ruling “a devastating blow” to “all of India’s tribal peoples.”
In Orissa, Dongria Kondh tribal Jitu Jakaka, said: “We are deeply connected with the mountain… our sacred place. It is home to our god Niyamraja. We will not allow the company to mine our land.”
Last November, Norway’s state pension fund withdrew 13 million dollars in investments in Vedanta, accusing it of “causing serious damage to people and to the environment” in India. Hosted by  Copyright © 2008 AFP.
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Written by janjagriti

August 9, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Posted in News

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