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Stalled projects and pending decisions: Sandur’s Land Lease Labyrinth

Between May 2013 and June 2015, Uttam Galva was leased a substantial 4,878 acres of land across four Sandur taluk villages. Despite a three-year extension granted in June 2016, the project’s fate remains uncertain. Industry insiders highlight key obstacles, including the absence of MoEF permissions, delays in water resource department approvals to change water sources, legal disputes by dispossessed farmers impacting land possession, and challenges in securing timely financial support for project implementation.

The status of ArcelorMittal’s operations, a decade after land allocation, remains uncertain. Additionally, decisions are pending for two other steel companies, Uttam Galva Ferrous Ltd and National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), both of which were allocated land in Sandur, Ballari district.

The company’s financial struggles were accentuated when AM Mining India Ltd acquired Uttam Galva Steels last year. It’s unclear whether this acquisition extended to Uttam Galva Ferrous Ltd. Interestingly, Nippon Steels and ArcelorMittal are affiliated with AM Mining.

Despite financial setbacks, the Karnataka State High Level Clearance Committee (SHLCC) granted a six-month extension in August 2022 for the company to initiate operations. The firm claims to have submitted an environmental impact assessment report to the state pollution control board for its proposed steel plant. Subsequent to this assessment, a public hearing and inquiry were conducted by the deputy commissioner of Ballari district, with a report submitted to MoEF.

The company intends to commence physical work on the factory upon receiving environmental clearance and has additionally requested a six-year extension for full project implementation. This extension would entail a total of 16 years of land being unused since its initial allocation. This matter is expected to be deliberated in the upcoming SHLCC session.

However, a challenge from within the Congress party arises. E Tukaram, Sandur MLA and former minister, alleges that the land initially designated for Uttam Galva Ferrous was initially meant for erstwhile Brahmani Steels, founded by controversial mining figure and current Koppal MLA G Janardhana Reddy.

Tukaram asserts that the transfer of land to Uttam Galva occurred after Brahmani Steels failed to initiate its industry. Concerns about potential real estate transactions involving government-acquired land, procured at a cost of Rs 6-7 lakh per acre, have been raised. Calls for an investigation into this matter have been voiced.

Regarding NMDC, discussions with the central government company to finalize the lease agreement, pending since 2017, are underway.

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