Two employees of Jindal Steel and Power were arrested in Bolivia, where the company had scrapped its $ 2.1 billion project a few days back.

The company’s property and equipment at Porto Suarez, where the project was supposed to come up, have also been confiscated. The arrested local employees were later released by the police. The local government also filed criminal cases against the company employees.

JSPL in a statement alleged that the arrest was “harassment and victimisation” of its employees “subsequent to JSPL’s termination of contract on July 16, 2012 for investment of $ 2.1 billion in the El Mutun mines in Bolivia“.

The Bolivian government has taken recourse to criminal proceedings against company employees and started “harassing and victimising them”, the company alleged.

JSPL said its six Indian employees are still in Bolivia and is making attempts to bring them back considering the scenario there.

“We also want that till such a time law takes its course, the Bolivian government must ensure the safety and security of all our employees and assets that legally belong to us,” a company spokesperson said.

The development comes five days after the company terminated its contract to develop El—Mutun iron ore mines there, besides setting up iron ore pellet and sponge iron plants and a steel mill over fuel supply woes.

The company said on July 16 that it is scrapping the project as the Bolivian government did not fulfil the contract conditions, which included supply of 10 million standard cubic metres per day (MSCMD) of natural gas.

Against this, the Bolivian government was willing to commit only 2.5 MSCMD of gas, it had said earlier.

The project’s cost was pegged at $ 2.1 billion and was considered as the single largest foreign direct investment in the Latin American country.

According to JSPL, yesterday it has been invited by Bolivian Mines Minister, Mr Mario Virreira, for reconciliatory talks on the matter, but it wants the meeting to happen at a neutral place or through video conferencing due to prevailing situation in the country.

“Seeing the prevailing circumstances —— especially pending legal cases against senior employees of our company — the company has proposed holding the meeting at a neutral place or through video conferencing,” JSPL said.

The company also demanded that the Bolivian government should also not allocate the mining rights granted to it to some other firms until the international arbitration over fuel supply issues, initiated in December last year, is concluded.

(This article was published on July 21, 2012)
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