South Korea’s POSCO faces another setback in India – by Krishna N. Das and Jatindra Dash (Reuters India – February 5, 2015)

(Reuters) – South Korea’s POSCO (005490.KS) will have to bid for an iron ore licence to feed its planned $12 billion steel plant in India, a minister said, in a setback for the company that was expecting the government to allocate it a mine without any competition.

The project to be set up by the world’s sixth-largest steelmaker has been caught up in a regulatory maze for the past decade, but the company had waited in the hope of getting preferential access to iron ore in Odisha.

But steel and mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday ruled out an exception to an executive order mandating auctions for all new mines. This will mean POSCO’s costs will likely rise if it does manage to win a mine.

“Even I’ll have to bid for a mine if I want one,” Tomar said, as the government looks to overhaul the past practice of handing over mines and reduce chances of corruption. The government’s decision, however, goes against the recommendation of Odisha to grant POSCO a mine without an auction.

“It was an international commitment and we had recommended on the basis of the request made by the (previous) central government,” Odisha’s steel and mines minister Prafulla Kumar Mallik told Reuters. “If POSCO will have to bid, it will be a setback for the project.”

POSCO’s India-based spokesman I.G. Lee said the company would wait for more clarity before deciding on the next course of action, and that nothing had changed as of now.

The 12 million-tonne-a-year plant would be the biggest foreign direct investment the country and had been seen as a test case for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” manufacturing push.

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