Vedanta will not scrap mining project despite objections

Vedanta will not scrap mining project despite objectionsVedanta Resources will not scrap its mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa state in Eastern India despite objections from the Union environment ministry to the plan, according to company official.

The Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh did not approve the stage II forest nod for Vedanta's bauxite mining project stating that the project is ‘inoperable’. The ministry said that the project violated forest laws and it affects the tribal people in the region.

“There have been serious violations of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). We have also issued show-cause notices to the company. This is not an emotional decision. There is no prejudice and no politics. This is not because Niyamgiri is sacred (the hill with the bauxite deposits is held sacred by the primitive tribal group known as the Dongria Kondh). This is purely a legal approach,” said Ramesh.

Vedanta's Mukesh Kumar has defended the company and said that the forest rules were not broken and the state authorities have implemented the Forest Rights Act in the area. He also pointed out that state government body Orissa Mining Corp holds the right to mining in the area and it could also challenge the environment ministry’s decision.

The company has faced court litigations, violent public protests, media wrath and tangling between state and central authorities in relation to the project. The environment ministry’s decision on Tuesday to not grant approval for the project is seen as a victory for tribal rights.

Vedanta had signed a MoU with Orissa state government to set up a alumina refinery and a captive power plant. The agreement also included supply of 150 million tonnes (mt) of bauxite for Vedanta’s alumina refinery at Lanjigarh and the government had identified Niyamgiri mine for 78 mt.

According to the company it has already invested $5.4 billion in the aluminium projects in Orissa and about 10,000 people are employed at the Lanjigarh alumina refinery plant.

“We are not in possession of Niyamgiri mine and no mining activity has been or will be undertaken till all approvals are in place,” it said in a statement.