The Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), a joint venture with Vedanta’s sister concern Sterlite Industries, has moved the Supreme Court against a decision of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to deny forest clearance for the proposed bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri hills.
The OMC is a joint venture partner in this mining project along with Sterlite industries, which is subsidiary concern of Vedanta.
The MoEF decision has upset the project plans to mine the hills and set up an aluminium refinery in the area. The Sterlite industries, the petition says had asked the state government to allot the alternate site which has not materialised so far.
The OMC owns the mines in the Niyamgiri hills. The petition said that by the apex court judgment of Nov 21, 2007 and Aug 8, 2008, the Sterlite Industry – the arm of Vedanta was permitted to mine the hills.
The petition said that despite the court’s clearance, the MoEF has once again reopened the issue by reversing the clearance to the project. The petition described the MoEF action as ‘unique and unprecedented’ as it over-turned the apex court clearance.
‘The Supreme Court took into account ecological, environmental, wildlife and relief and rehabilitation measures for tribals before giving clearance,’ the petition has said.
The petition said that overturning the clearance adversely affects the market standing of the OMC and the investment climate in the state.
It may be recalled that there was huge opposition to the mining-cum-refinery project by the local population. The MoEF panel in August 2010 found Vedanta guilty of expanding its refinery without clearance and had shot down its mining plans.
In the mining-cum-refinery project, Vedanta had signed a deal with Orissa government in 2003 for the construction of an aluminium refinery and had proposed to extract three million tonnes of bauxite per year from Niyamgiri hilltop.
The forest bench of the apex court had denied Vedanta the permission to mine and instead asked Sterlite to do so provided the environmental norms were adhered to