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Issue 32
, 2011
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SC notice to MoEF, Orissa & Sterlite on Niyamgiri mining

Indu Bhan
Source: Financial Express, New Delhi, April 22, 2011, Date: , 2011

The Supreme Court on April 21, 2011 asked the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to explain as to why UK’s Vedanta Resources’ Indian arm Sterlite Industries should not be allowed to mine bauxite in the eco-sensitive Niyamgiri hills to feed its alumina refinery in the state. A Bench headed by Justice RV Raveendran issued notices to the ministry, state government and Sterlite Industries on the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) plea. OMC had moved the court challenging the ministry’s decision to block the Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Aluminium Ltd's (VAL) plan to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills of Kalahandi district in the state. The MoEF had on August 24, last year rejected Stage-II forest clearance for the firm's mining project in Lanjigarh on the ground that the British firm had showed “blatant disregard” for local tribal groups in the eastern state who deem the land as sacred.  Vedanta wants to dig open-cast mines in the Niyamgiri hills to feed an alumina refinery it has already built in the area, as part of an $800 million project expected initially to produce 1 million tonne of alumina per year.

OMC, on behalf of the state government, has filed an application against the ministry for over ruling the the apex court's orders of November 23, 2007 and August 8, 2008 on the allocation of Niyamgiri bauxite mine to Sterlite. It said that the ministry's decision has effectively neutalised the Supreme Court's orders that granted clearance to the special purpose vehicle for diversion of 660.749 hectare of forest land to undertake bauxite mining on the Niyamgiri Hills.

The Supreme Court in 2007 and 2008 had declined permission to VAL to mine bauxite for its proposed aluminium project, but had left a door open for Sterlite Industries to extract the mineral in collaboration with state agencies.

The special forest bench had then asked Sterilite to deposit Rs 55 crore as Net Present value, Rs 50.53 crore towards a wildlife management plan, Rs 12.20 crore towards tribal development as well as 5% of its annual profits from mining throughout India and interest or Rs 10 crore whichever was higher for development of the region.