MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian minister halts fresh Vedanta bid to mine Niyamgiri

Published by MAC on 2012-04-24
Source: Economic Times

But the UK company isn't likely to give up

India's environment minister has ordered that the proposal by UK-listed Vedanta to expand its Orissa alumina refinery six fold, be held in abeyance.

The decision seems effectively to put the highly-controversial Nyamgiri mine project on indefinite hold.

However, while clearly describing the ruses employed by Vedanta to get both projects officially approved, a regional peoples' organisation issues a stark warning:

"..Vedanta might try all other tricks to accomplish its dirty agenda...[It] might find a back door [by coming] up with a joint venture project with L&T to mine Kutru Mali and Silji Mali near Kashipur to feed its Lanjigarh plant..."

For previous MAC article on the issue, see: Vedanta in India: a bad project is given thumbs-down

Natarajan stops fresh Vedanta bid to mine Niyamgiri hills

Economic Times

18 April 2012

NEW DELHI: Environment and forests minister Jayanthi Natarajan nixed yet another attempt by Vedanta to get Niyamgiri bauxite mines in Odisha that Rahul Gandhi had stood up against, saving the Congress and its scion some blushes.

On Tuesday, she ordered that the preliminary nod given by her ministry to the expansion of Vedanta's aluminium refinery, which the company had claimed would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from Niyamgiri mines in Lanjigarh, be held in abeyance which effectively puts the project on hold.

The environment ministry had earlier cancelled the forest clearance to Vedanta for mining Niyamgiri hills for violation of green norms and hauled up the company for expanding the linked aluminium refinery without mandatory environmental clearance. It asked the company to file an application afresh for the expansion of the refinery. Vedanta went to the Supreme Court against the ban on mining.

Alongside, the company filed a fresh application for expansion of the aluminium refinery. But without a word on the existing rigmarole over Niyamgiri mines, the company said it would source 150 million tonnes of bauxite from the Lanjigarh mines.

Disregarding the fact that the ministry had rejected Vedanta's bid for Lanjigarh mines, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) division of the ministry gave preliminary nod to the project asking it to go ahead and hold a public hearing on the project based on the EIA report. The report of the company too did not mention, as required, that the claimed source of raw material was bound in legal disputes.

Sources said Natarajan stepped in when informed and put the preliminary nod given by her officers to Vedanta on hold. The public hearing now stands cancelled till the ministry takes a final view on the case.

The EIA report of Vedanta accessed by TOI reads, "Orissa Mining Corporation will ensure supply of bauxite, which is main raw material for the alumina refinery, to the tune of 150 million tonnes from Lanjigarh bauxite deposit located in Niyamgiri hill ranges and other deposits around the plant."

Interestingly, the company, as per its own documents, had got the scientific and environmental data generated for the assessment report even before the terms for gathering such data had been set by the government. The studies normally are carried out only after the environment ministry informs the project developer about the scope of such research.

The assessment report is put before the affected people in public hearings as per green laws. Approval in the public hearings and addressing concerns raised is essential for all projects. The Orissa government had put out the date for Vedanta's public hearing based on these flawed reports.

Close All Files on Vedanta

Try Company for Criminal Conspiracy Against Indian State, Its Resources and Indigenous Communities

Lok Shakti Abhiyan Press Note

18 April 2012

Bhubaneswar: The Lok Shakti Abhiyan condemns in strongest term the crime that Vedanta has been allowed to carry on in connivance with MOEF and the state government agencies ignoring judicial, quasi judicial opinions, resistance of the Dongarias and public opinion expressed at all levels starting from the locals to the global groups of concerned activists.

No democracy worth its name in the world would allow a private company to make a mockery of its laws, institutions and principles just because there is an unqualified assumption that it would bring in FDI and some mysterious benefits along with it.

The President of the Lok Sakti Abhiyan, Prafulla Samantara calls it a grand betrayal of citizens' hope, faith and belief in democracy while condemning Vedants' attempt to conduct an illegal public hearing on its controversial alumina plant expansion project in Lanjigarh which was stopped by the MOEF on 17 April 2012.

The LSA did argue earlier that the Public Hearing for the expansion of the Alumina Refinery of Vedanta at Lanjigarh, Kalahandi, Orissa which had been proposed to be held on the 2nd of May, 2012 was illegal, improper and certainly made a mockery of the law of the land.

It was aimed at ensuring that the Niyamgiri Hills would be opened up for mining Bauxite, despite all the opposition and concerned raised by the Dongria Kondhs and other concerned groups.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) granted the Terms of Reference (TOR) on 2nd February, 2011 to prepare the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Report for its expansion plans for Alumina Refinery from 1MTPA to 6 MTPA in accordance with the provisions of the EIA Notification, 2006.

This is despite the fact that according to the Vedanta itself it has carried out nearly 55 % of the construction for the plant, without prior approval under the EIA Notification, 2006. This reminds us the position that Vedanta took in the Apex Court's Green Bench during 2006-07 after constructing the original plant in Lanjigarh ignoring all laws of the land that it has spent good amount money for the plant therefore clearance be granted. The authorities in Bhubaneswar and Delhi are advising them how to violate laws and how to black mail the government. The person who did the most for Vedanta is now the PCCF of Odisha.

The EIA Report clearly mentions that the bauxite supply will be met from the Lanjigarh mines/ Niyamgiri located at a distance of 3.7 Kms. The action of granting TOR and preparation of EIA Report and announcement of Public Hearing is illegal, malafide and motivated with the sole aim to mine the Niyamgiri hills by creating a fait accompli situation. This is because:

(i) The Forest Clearance granted to mine the Niyamgiri hills stands cancelled by the Ministry of Environment and Forest on 24th of August, 2010 in view of the violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980;

(ii) The Environmental Clearance granted to the Mine also is inoperable and stands suspended in view of the Order of the National Environment Appellate Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

(iii) The Orissa Mining Corporation has challenged the above decision of the MoEF before the Supreme Court, but no stay or relief has been provided by the Supreme Court.

(iv) Vedanta's appeal for allowing expansion and questioning the MOEF ban on the expansion project also has been rejected by the Odisha High Court twice once the petition and subsequently the review petition.

Therefore, in the absence of any mine legally available to Vedanta/ OMC it is illegal on the part of Vedanta to plan for an expansion of its refinery based on the assumption that it will source its bauxite from Niyamgiri.

The plan of Vedanta is very clear: invest on construction of the Refinery and the Captive power Plant, and then seek approval for the mine. It is unfortunate that the Ministry of Environment and Forest has allowed such illegal decision to be taken. It is time that a clear decision is taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forest to close all files relating to Vedanta and take action against those officials who have got the TOR issued for the refinery which is based in mining the Niyamgiri Hills.

The EIA Report has been prepared by one EIA Consultant called "Global Experts". It is not in the list of accredited consultants of the Ministry of Environment and Forest and seems to be a lobbying group, rather than an EIA Consultant.

Further, the EIA Consultant claims that it has "conducted Public hearings" and also helped in getting environmental clearance for its clients from the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the State Pollution Control Board.

This is clearly contrary to the neutral role envisaged for the EIA Consultants. We would not hesitate to call them ecological criminals who are providing the advice to kill the mother earth just for few million rupees. The task of conducting a Public hearing is of the Pollution Control Board and the following up with the Regulatory Authorities is the task of the project proponent not of the EIA consultant. The sole intention of Vedanta in getting the EIA Consultant is to ensure that it lobbies with the Ministry of Environment and Forest to get the necessary approval.

Even more shocking is the fact that contrary to the statement of the ‘Global Experts', no comprehensive EIA Report has been prepared. Comprehensive EIA includes a full season data. The present EIA report is a rapid EIA Report based on a single season data. It can by no stretch be regarded as a Comprehensive EIA report. This amounts to misleading information which is a ground for revocation of the ToR.

What is even more surprising is that, no detailed description has been provided about the specific location of the areas where the expansion will take place. Given the fact that the area is surrounded by forest and specifically Gram Jungle jogya, it seems doubtful that no forest land is involved. We suspect that the Company is trying its best to hide the fact that forest land is involved.

It is very surprising that the Terms of Reference for preparing the EIA Report is issued on the 2nd of February, 2012, while baseline data has been collected from 1st of November, 2011 till the 29th of February, 2012. Clearly, Vedanta could not have started the process of collection of baseline data prior to prescribing the TOR's. The fact that Vedanta started collecting baseline data prior to TOR being prescribed, reflects its confidence in both the Central and State Government that it will be allowed to carry out its mining and expansion activity.

The LSA warns that Vedanta might try all other tricks to accomplish its dirty agenda. The LSA further suspects that Vedanta might find a back door as experts are speculating that Vedanta might come up with a Joint venture project with L&T to mine Kutru Mali and Silji Mali near Kashipur to feed its Lanjigarh plant apart from waiting for an opportune time to grab Niyamgiri as both Odisha government and the MOEF are helping it out.

In no case either the Dongarias or the people fighting for their rights will give up the war against criminal companies knowing fully well that any kind complacency will cause the Dooms Day not only for them and their democracy but also for the whole Earth which holds life in all forms.

Prafulla Samantara

Sidharth Nayak

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