New Delhi: India’s Supreme Court on Friday allowed South Korean steel firm Posco the use of large swathes of forest land in the country’s east to build a $12 billion (Rs50,403 crore) plant.
The project in Orissa state, India’s single biggest foreign investment, had also been left hanging for more than two years due to stiff opposition from farmers angry over losing their land.
“Posco is permitted to continue the iron ore mining,” the Supreme Court said in a judgement.
Posco has so far been able to get about a quarter of the required 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of land. The court has allowed Posco use of another 3,000 acres of forest land.
Protestors claim the plant could displace 20,000 people, while the firm and government say it will create jobs in an impoverished part of the country.
The stand-off over the project reflects a larger anger among Indian farmers fighting to save their land from factories as the country’s economic priorities shift from agriculture to industry.
Posco, the world’s fourth-largest steelmaker, had earlier said it could not begin construction work supposed to begin on 1 April due to procedural delays. It had said the problems related to obtaining an iron ore mining lease and forest land needed for the plant.
Armed protesters last year abducted four senior Posco officials, including three South Koreans, when they were inspecting the plant site. They were later released following an assurance by the police that executives from the firm would not visit the area until the dispute was resolved.