New Delhi (Agencies): Overturning the recommendation of his Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) for the second time in a month, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday gave forest clearance to SAIL for mining iron ore from Chiria reserves in Jharkhand.

The approval for Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), a Maharatna, was however given with 13 specific conditions.

"Chiria is essential for the future of SAIL," said Ramesh claiming it as one of the factors behind the approval for the project.

Over the next 50 years, around 40 per cent of iron ore requirement of the SAIL will be met from Chiria mines. The permission was sought for a period of 20 years.

"The approval is being given subject to the usual conditions governing forest clearance (like those relating to compensatory afforestation). There are 13 specific conditions that are being stipulated for this approval," Ramesh said.

SAIL Chairman C S Verma said he was happy the clearance and was hopeful that mining of iron ore could commence by 2012-13.

Ramesh said he overruled the FAC recommendation while granting clearance.

FAC overturned second time

"There have been two occasions when FAC has recommended rejection and I have exercised my own judgement and overturned the FAC recommendation - the first being POSCO and the second being the present Chiria case," he said.

Ramesh last month gave clearance for South Korean major POSCO for its mega steel mill-cum-captive power plant project and a minor port in Orissa.

"The FAC will continue to focus single-mindedly on forest-related, biodiversity-related issues and concerns, while as Minister I will have to necessary to take a broader view but placing  on public record in a complete manner the reasons for taking that view. That has always been and will continue to be my approach," the Minister added.

Conditions for project

Conditions stipulated by the Ministry includes that only mining and primary and secondary crushing would take place in the forest area, mining in the diverted area will be done in phases and SAIL will earmark at least two per cent of net profit for corporate social responsibility in Chiria region, which is affected by left wing extremism and is home to
several tribal groups.

The conditions say that there should be zero discharge into Koena river, steps should be taken to ensure that the river does not get polluted and forest roads should not be used by SAIL during night time.

Ramesh said that while deciding to accord approval, the Ministry also considered facts like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh writing a letter to the Chief Minister of Jharkhand in August 2007 for renewal of leases in SAIL's favour "in the broader national interest".

"SAIL has a Rs 18,000 crore IPO on the anvil, 50 per cent whose proceeds will accrue to the Government of India. Thus an early decision has to be taken without waiting for perfect information," Ramesh added.

Chiria reserve is home to about two billion tonnes of rich deposits and SAIL and Jharkhand government had locked horns over renewal of leases for over five years now.