India: Vedanta’s illegal expansion of alumina refinery under scrutiny

Vedanta Alumina plant in Lanjigarh, Orissa

by Latha Jishnu

Sep 15, 2010

FOR months there has been speculation in Delhi about an imminent clampdown on metals giant Vedanta’s bauxite mining operations in Orissa.

However, when the final forest clearance for Vedanta’s proposal to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills was rejected by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) on August 23, there was surprise at the speed at which matters had moved the preceding week.

The ministry’s stop-order came in the wake of a flurry of committee meetings as officials compiled a detailed dossier on the environmental and forest rights violations by the London Stock Exchange-listed metals firm. The ministry’s decision was based on the findings of the N C Saxena Committee set up to examine the mining proposal. The N C Saxena committee submitted its report on August 16. Four days later, its recommendations were accepted by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF.

Minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh also had to double check the legal implication of his order on Vedanta with the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Attorney General of India since FAC had given in-principle clearance to Vedanta for diverting 660.74 hectares of forestland for mining to the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) in 2007. The Supreme Court had also cleared the proposal in August 2008. Continue reading