The story is heating up, with Mittal Steels head of Indian operations reported to have said that the company would not be interested in setting up its promised 12 million-tonne project without Chiria. Jharkhands new government has said, Sail would get priority as a government company. Sail bounced back by promising a new 5 mt project to satisfy Jharkhands desire for value-addition, even as three mines are in dispute. Should Jharkhand favour Sail Or should it side with the Mittals to get the big-ticket investment (Rs 40,000 crore) Both questions deserve a no. The larger issue is that mines are located in backward areas, where development is key. While, ideally, the fate of the mine needs to be delinked from the project, political reality demands a compromise with economic merit in the current situation. So, if captive mines are being allocated, the state would need to use its discretionafter the basic criteria are met, set by global best practices. The way out would be to create competition. Jharkhand could divide up the spoils, if that were legally and physically possible too. So if Sail were to get access to 1bn tonne, it would be enough to feed its new ambitions for a few decades. And Mittal should then be satisfieddoes he own all the ore sources that feed his furnaces Another solution would be to release leases to either party, as and when they bring in the investment.