NGT dismisses Hindalco plea challenging Maha govt

The National Green Tribunal has dismissed Hindalco’s plea challenging the Maharashtra government’s refusal to grant it three more months, after expiry of its forest clearance, to transport around 1.6 lakh tonnes of bauxite mined from Kolhapur district.
A bench headed by Justice V R Kingaonkar also declined to direct the state government to forward the company’s proposal, for more time, to the Centre for grant of approval. “We are of the opinion the appeal is without merit. We are further of the opinion that respondent 1 (Maharashtra govt) cannot be directed to forward the proposal of the appellant (Hindalco) to the Central government for grant of approval as the discretion of respondent 1 cannot be substituted by passing such order.

“Consequently the appeal stands dismissed,” it said.

The tribunal refused to grant the relief to Hindalco saying when the company was aware that its forest clearance would come to an end on October 2, 2011, it should have lifted and transported the ore within the stipulated time.

The NGT also said that as per the company’s submission, there was a tar road connecting the mine area for transporting the ore. Thus, reason given by Hindalco that the bauxite could not be lifted due to monsoon season was “unacceptable”.

It further said that it appeared that Hindalco extracted maximum stock of ore during the monsoon period with the expectation it would later get permission to transport it.

“… When the appellant was aware the forest clearance was to come to an end on October 2, 2011, the lifting of ore and transportation thereof ought to have been done within the stipulated period. The appellant has stated on record that there is tar road connecting the mine area… Obviously, the reason that due to rainy season the transportation could not be undertaken is unacceptable,” the tribunal said.

“What appears from the record is that appellant extracted maximum stock of the bauxite from the mine during monsoon period, with the expectation that permission could be obtained subsequently for the purpose of lifting and transportation. Such an expectation was frustrated when the proposal was turned down by the state government,” the tribunal said.

Hindalco, which runs an alumina refinery plant at Belgaum (Karnataka) at a distance of about 60 km from the mining site in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur district, had obtained the mining licence, valid till May 2018, from the competent authority for extraction of bauxite.

As the forest clearance granted to Hindalco was to expire on October 2, 2011, the company in March 2010 had submitted a proposal to the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Kolhapur for renewal of the clearance.

On June 2, 2011, it had submitted another proposal for permission to transport the finished and semi-finished mined out bauxite within a period of three months from October 2, 2011, the date of expiry of forest clearance, as it was difficult to lift the mined-out minerals during monsoon.

The Maharashtra government, however, on basis of report of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, had rejected the proposal due to which the mined-out bauxite could not be lifted and transported by Hindalco.

It had said that according to a forest official’s report, the mining site is on the Western Ghats which is an eco- sensitive area and the approval of said proposal for transportation of mined-out minerals could have adverse impact on flora, fauna, biodiversity there.

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