MAC: Mines and Communities

Supreme Court opposes mining in Orissa

Published by MAC on 2005-01-11

After nearly two years vigorous campaigning, indigenous communities hit by Vedanta's illegal and damaging activities in Orissa, finally get backing from India's Supreme Court. However, yet another British-based company now seems poised to encroach on the same area.

Vedanta's Rs 4,000 cr Orissa project in green trouble

Dilip Bisoi, Financial Express

January 11th 2005

Bhubaneswar - An environment committee set up by the Supreme Court has objected to Vedanta Aluminium's Rs 4,000-crore project in Orissa. The committee has observed that project and mining activity in Niyamgiri area of Kalahandi district will have an adverse impact on the environment.

It has recommended appropriate action against the company for violating the Forest Conservation Act and suggested that an alternative bauxite mine be allotted to the project.

The panel comprising SC Sharma and SK Chadha submitted its report to the apex court on Monday. It had conducted a field inspection following petitions from several opposition Congress MLAs led by Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra.

Vedanta Aluminium, a wholly-owned subsidiary of London-based Vedanta Resources headed by Anil Agarwal, is putting up a one million tonne refinery at Langigarh in Kalahandi district. The company has entered into an agreement with the state-owned Orissa Mining Corp to form a JV to explore and exploit Niyamgiri mines allotted to it.

Pointing out that the company had violated forest laws, the committee said that construction of the refinery has been taken up on forest land and without clearance under Forest (Conservation) Act.

The committee has also found fault with the ministry of environment and forests in according clearances to the project. Such clearance of the mining site should either precede or be linked with clearance of the refinery site, it said.

SC team opposes mining in two areas in Orissa

NDTV Correspondent

January 12, 2005

Bhubaneshwar - The Supreme Court fact-finding team, inquiring allegations of violations of forest and environment laws by Vedanta Alumina in Lanjigarh in Orissa, has strongly opposed any mining activity in Niyamgiri and Karlapat areas.

These two areas have been offered to the company for bauxite mining by the state-owned mining corporation.

The SC team has also found evidence of illegal felling of trees by the company.

Ecologists claim victory

Environmentalists say this report is a victory for them.

"Niyamgiri and Karlapat areas cannot be used for mining because they are rich biospheres. Mining would affect the water flow in Vanshadhara river and also pollute it," said Biswajit Mohanty, environmentalist.

"My allegations have now been upheld by the team in their report which has also recommended strong action against the company for the violations," said Lulu Mohapatra, Congress MLA.

However, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who had taken a keen interest in the project and laid the foundation of the alumina refinery plant early last year, says he is yet to get a copy of the report.

The Orissa government is already in the dock over the Tangarpara chromite mines deal with the Jindal group following a hard-hitting high court judgment.

The Opposition claims that there have been huge kickbacks in these mining deals and is demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister.

Meanwhile, the world's largest mining company, BHPBilliton, has stepped in to the disputed area, just as Vedanta is told to desist.

At BHPBilliton's UK Annual General Meeting, late last year, CEO Chip Goodyear claimed he didn't even know which part of Orissa the company had its eyes on at the time. He said that any aluminium project was speculative and far off in the future. Goodyear also refused to promise to discontnue discontinue dealings with the corrupt Orissa chief minister, Naveen Patnaik.

No wonder - for his company must have been involved in such negotiations, even as he spoke.

BHP Billiton submits alumina plant proposal to Orissa government

Commodities Research Unit, London

January 12 2005

BHP Billiton has submitted a proposal to the government of Orissa to construct a 1.5 million tonne alumina plant in the Kalahandi district.

BHP Billiton officials met with Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik last Friday to discuss the project, but as yet have not disclosed what area they propose to set up their alumina refinery.

BHP Billiton has an agreement with Sulakhana Mines, which have been allotted the Karlapat mines in Kalahandi.

The Karlapat mines, which hold proven deposits of over 150 million tonnes, have also been promised to Vedanta Aluminium, who is currently facing opposition to its bauxite mining plans in Kalahandi.

A Supreme Court environment committee has today objected Vedanta’s Rs 4,000-crore project in Orissa saying their mining activity in Niyamgiri, in Kalahandi, will have an adverse impact on the environment.

BHP Billiton is said to also be considering other bauxite mine development opportunities in Orissa given the current controversies facing mining in the Kalahandi district.

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