NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian premier Manmohan Singh Thursday said a mega steel plant being built by South Korean multinational Posco would become operational in the coming weeks, allaying fears of further delays in the project.
Dr Singh gave his assurances on the US$12 billion (S$ 15 billion) plant, India's biggest foreign investment project, to visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye during their meeting in New Delhi.
"I conveyed to President Park our hope that this project will confirm that economic growth and environmental protection can go hand in hand," Dr Singh said in a statement. Dr Singh said the plant in the eastern state of Orissa "is set to be operational in the coming weeks" with the "grant of mining concession for the project also at an advanced stage of processing".
Posco has been trying for a licence to explore iron ore locally for the steel plant but a decision on its request is still pending.
The eight-million-tonne-a-year plant has been stuck for more than eight years due to delays in getting clearances and acquiring land from local residents.
The environment ministry gave its renewed go-ahead to the plant only last week, eight years after it first signalled its approval.
But doubts remain over clearances required for a port needed to facilitate the operation of the project as well as fresh land acquisition and other hurdles.
A major obstacle is the opposition from environmental campaign groups including Greenpeace and some local activists.
The South Korean president welcomed the "progress" in the Posco project and hoped the company would commence work at the plant "at an early date".
In the coming days, the countries agreed to "continue to cooperate for the successful implementation of the project".
Representatives of the two countries also signed five agreements including in sectors of defence, space and academics.
Ms Park will wind up her four-day visit to India on Saturday.