MAC: Mines and Communities

Will Indian government reverse bauxite mine cancellations in Andhra and Orissa?

Published by MAC on 2012-12-17
Source: The Hindu, Times of India (2012-12-14)

Andhra Pradesh: Uncertainty over cancellation of mining leases

The Hindu

14 December 2012

VISAKHAPATNAM - State's silence over Centre's directive triggers speculation Uncertainty over cancellation of leases for bauxite mining in Visakhapatnam and the adjoining areas in the highly fragile ecosystem of Eastern Ghats continues with the State government observing stoic silence over the issue.

The silence, despite a specific directive by Union Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo vide letter dated September 27, 2012, to the AP [Andhra Pradesh] government to cancel the leases, invoking the provisions of Clause 3 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and report compliance to him, has led to speculation in certain circles that the government is not keen on scrapping the deals.

The agreements were signed with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited, Anrak Aluminium Limited, and National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) during 2005-10. The government, in the MoUs, had promised to supply the mineral through the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC). Before Mr. Deo's directive, the then Minister for Mining, B.K. Handique, issued orders in August 2010 putting on hold all the clearances issued for bauxite mining in the scheduled areas till the concerns on livelihood and threat to ecology were addressed.

The three companies, as per MoUs, had proposed to invest around Rs.25,000 crore on alumina refinery, smelter, and other facilities. Anrak, a joint venture of Penna Cements and Ras Al-Khaiamah Investment Authority (RAKIA), which has not got environmental clearance to get bauxite from Sapparla and other mines through APMDC, has completed construction of its refinery in Makavarapalem mandal, about 100 km from here.

"As of now, the State seems to be glossing over the directive by Mr. Deo to comply by cancelling the deals. So far, there is no response, which makes us believe that the government's delay is driven by pressure from the mining lobby," Samata executive director Rebbapragda Ravi told The Hindu.

After Samata filed a PIL against calcite mining near Borra Caves by Birla Periclase for its seawater magnesium plant near Bhimunipatnam, the Supreme Court in 1997 gave a landmark judgment on mining in the Fifth Schedule areas.

Mr. Deo, whose Araku Lok Sabha constituency has several bauxite reserves, in a letter to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan dated April 7 had asked him to invoke special powers vested with him to invoke 244 (i) of the Constitution and cancel the mining leases.


Tribal affairs minister Deo against dilution of Forest Rights Act rules

Nitin Sethi

Times News of India

13 December 2012

NEW DELHI: Any dilution of the rules under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, as being  contemplated at the highest levels of the government, could lead to adverse impact in the ongoing Supreme Court case on UPA's decision to cancel the bauxite mining rights for Vedanta in Odisha, tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo has warned.

Deo has written a second letter to environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan demanding that her ministry's order of August 2009, bringing forest clearances in line with the FRA, should be adhered to strictly and not tampered with. He said the order was necessary to follow the FRA in spirit and letter.

He also noted that withdrawing or diluting the order would jeopardize the government's case for cancelling Vedanta's mining rights in Nyamgiri Hills - a move that Rahul Gandhi had championed. The company has challenged the cancellation in the Supreme Court and the case is at an advanced stage.

Sources in the government said Deo also informed Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of his views on the environment ministry order that has become the target of infrastructure ministries, forest officials as well as higher echelons of the government.

The order requires that development projects not be allowed to cut down forests until the rights of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers are settled.

It demands a mandatory consent from the affected tribals at the gram sabha level before transferring lands for projects.

The order has been honoured more in its breach since it was passed. But now, several quarters in the government have pushed to officially dilute it or completely do away with it.

It was for violating this order, besides other facts, that then environment minister Jairam Ramesh cancelled Vedanta's mining permit in Odisha.

Deo wrote, "This order is extremely significant and I write to request you to ensure that it is upheld as it is an absolute requirement in order to ensure that takeover of forestland in this country is done in accordance with law.

There are proceedings pending in the SC in regard to the proposed mine by Sterlite/Vedanta... where parties seek to argue that they can bypass, ignore or undermine the FRA. Any dilution of the above mentioned circular of 2009 will have an adverse impact on the Vedanta case which is sub-judice."

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