A central panel has asked Jharkhand to clarify soon whether the existing and proposed mining leases of ArcelorMittal for its planned Rs 50,000-crore plant in the state fell under a conservation reserve or not.
The development comes in the wake of a Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) examining the application of world's largest steel maker for diversion of 202 hectares of reserved forest area in its favour for iron ore and manganese mining in Saranda forest division in West Singhbhum district.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF has recommended: "The state government should clearly state whether the forest area falling in this lease is outside the conservation reserve or not as per the IWMP (Integrated Wildlife Management Plan).
ArcelorMittal has plans to set up 12 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant in Jharkhand at an estimated investment of Rs 50,000 crore. The proposal is stuck for over eight years now for want of regulatory clearances and land acquisition.
"State government of Jharkhand should be requested to expedite finalisation of the IWMP and clarify its stand about the status of forest land falling inside the proposed lease vis a vis draft IWMP," the FAC said.
Earlier, the panel had sought comments of the Chief Wild Life Warden (CWLW) on the status of the proposed mining lease and IWMP being finalised by the state government in January this year.
However, as per the minutes of the FAC, "No comments have been furnished by the CWLW on the status of the proposed mining lease vis a vis IWMP".
An expert committee of the MoEF has also brought to the notice of the FAC that a floral and faunal study in and around the mining lease is being carried out by NIT Rourkela which will also be placed before the FAC.
Last month, a Steel Ministry panel has also asked its Coal counterpart to expedite process to grant approval to the mining plan of a coal block in Jharkhand alloted to steel giant.
"Steel Secretary G Mohan Kumar has asked the Coal Ministry to expedite the matter of approval of mining plan for Seregarha coal block of ArcelorMittal," a Steel Ministry official said.
In July last year, ArcelorMittal had scrapped its proposed Rs 50,000 crore Odisha project, tipped as one of the biggest foreign investment proposals, due to inordinate problems in acquiring land and securing iron ore linkages.
The steel giant had, however, said that it continued to pursue Jharkhand and Karnataka projects with progress on land acquisition and raw material security front.