Essar resolves Minnesota impasse, says no refinery in Iran

Essar resolves Minnesota impasse, says no refinery in Iran


New Delhi: The Essar Group has resolved the uncertainty on its steel project in Minnesota by pledging not to make any investment in Iran without US permission.

According to a statement issued by Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office, Essar Global has committed to fully comply with all US and international law, including those prohibiting certain investments in Iran, and that Pawlenty will support continued state assistance for Essar’s proposed steel project on the Iron Range.

“After discussions between Essar officials, the Governor’s office and the US State Department, Governor Pawlenty received a letter today from Essar’s Americas chief executive Madhu Vuppuluri stating Essar considers its investments in Minnesota of strategic importance both to Essar and to the State and people of Minnesota", the statement said.

The letter says that “no investment or firm commitment will be made in Iran, unless and until permitted to do so under the applicable US or international laws."

Essar closed a deal to purchase Minnesota Steel and planned to construct a new $1.6-billion steel mine and mill in Nashwauk. As part of the project, Itasca County has been seeking $60 million in state bonding for infrastructure and utility needs for projects in the area.

Pawlenty, on Saturday, said he might not support state bonding to support infrastructure development for the plant because Essar may next year begin building an oil refinery in Iran.

On Monday, Pawlenty reportedly sought US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s opinion whether Essar was violating US sanctions by planning to build the oil refinery in Iran.

“We’re pleased that Essar is making this commitment to ensure US law is followed and to keep this important project on track in Minnesota," Pawlenty said in the statement after Essar’s commitment not to invest in Iran.

“When we learned of reports that Essar may have been considering a project in Iran, it was our hope they would set that aside and make assurances they would comply with US law. Essar has now committed to do just that. I look forward to working with the legislature to secure appropriate state support for the project during the upcoming legislative session," the Governor pointed out.

The mammoth project, which would include a new taconite plant, direct reduced iron facility, and 2.5 million tonne-per-year slab steel mill, has been in development for 11 years.