MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta update

Published by MAC on 2007-10-06

Vedanta update

6th October 2007

Once again India's Supreme Court (SC) has deferred taking a decision on the mining of bauxite in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills, although the central government's Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) did its best to steamroller assent for Vedanta's potentially very damaging project.

According to one court observer, the lawyer for the Central Empowered Committee (whose comprehensive 2005 report apparently damned the mine for ever) last week didn't even stand up to argue the case when it re-opened on October 5th.

The day was saved by a woman lawyer, Indira Jai Singh, acting on behalf of an Orissa-based advocate who has long campaigned against the mine. Ms Singh opened a new line in the case by arguing the rights of tribal people's, citing the cultural, spiritual and livelihood significance of the Niyamgiri summit. Her petition relies on the new Indian Tribal Forest Rights Act, which is just at the point of becoming Law.

The Chief Justice twice tried persuading Ms Singh to present the petition as a "suggestion" (in which case it would almost certainly have been ignored in favour of a pro-mining decision by the Court). However, she insisted on making an "Objection" - thus taking issue with India's Attorney General and the MoEF.

The next SC hearing is set for 26th October, but the date is yet to be confirmed.

At one point in the hearing one of the panel of three judges observed the Attorney General conferring with Vedanta's lawyers about the proposed new date: "Are you taking orders from your company?" he asked

Perhaps these few words speak volumes about what many people perceive as direct collusion between members of the Indian government and judiciary and the notoriousBritish mining company.

In another court, however, Vedanta suffered a setback last week when a tourism outfit challenged its attempt to secure land for its much-vaunted (and criticised) eponymous university in western Orissa.

Whatever the eventual outcomes of these cases Vedanta's headman, Anil Agarwal, refuses to be deterred from his aim to become one of the world's leading mining entrepreneurs.

Last week, the company announced that it was in the market to buy an unnamed debt-ridden US copper company and to expand production from its newly-acquired Sesa Goa pig iron ore operations in Goa to a million tonnes a year.

SC asks Orissa govt to submit impact report on mining

Zee News, New Delhi

5th October 2007

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Orissa government to file a comprehensive report on the impact of mining activities of Aluminium firms NALCO and Hindalco on the environment, ecology and lives of tribals in Kalahandi-Koraput region of the state.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S H Kapadia also directed the state government to file a status report on 80 applications pending before it for grant of mining leases in the state.

The bench asked the government to give details on the extent of the proposed mining leases and the forest land which is likely to get involved in these mining operations for bauxite in these districts in view of the state government having granted mining lease to various corporates.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests in its report submitted before the apex court stated that 26.71% (16,727 sq km) of the total geographical area of 4417.54 sq km in both Kalahandi and Koraput district was under forest cover and around 67.12 sq km (0.84%) of the forest area was involved in bauxite mining in both the districts.

Quoting the state government, the report said out of 10 bauxite deposits, mining leases have been granted for two deposits. While Panchpatmali deposit in Koraput district is under operation by NALCO since 1986, Maliparbat deposit in Koraput district had been granted to HINDALCO, it added.

According to the report, the Centre had received application for grant of mining leases in two more deposits - Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district and Kodingamali in Koraput - in favour of Orissa Mining Corporation.

Lanjigarh deposit has been granted to Vedanta Alumina Ltd and Kodingamali has been tied up for Aditya Aluminium project of HINDALCO. However, applications for mining lease for these two deposits were pending for want of forest clearance.

Centre backs mining projects of Vedanta and others in Orissa

The Centre on Friday tacitly supported Vedanta Resources Plc's proposal to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri Hills for its one million tonne refinery in Orissa that is being opposed by green activists and local tribes.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests, in its report submitted to the Supreme Court, has indirectly backed the mining activities in the hills in Kalahandi district, saying that mining would only affect a marginal amount of forest land and would have "negligible" impact on flora.

"If the total forest area required for bauxite mining component of the project were to be compared with the total forest area of the district, it works out to be only 0.26%," said the report.

It said that none of the 10 bauxite deposits in the districts of Koraput and Kalahandi form part of the wildlife sanctuary or biosphere reserve. The Karalapat deposit is 2-10km away from the sanctuary while the Krishunmali deposit is 1-3km away.

Quoting the Orissa government, it said the bauxite deposits are located on the plateau top which had no or little vegetation.

To implement a wildlife management plan, the Ministry said suitable intervention at the cost of Rs 50 crore had been devised to ensure the same.

Citing the case of NALCO, the government stated that the proposed projects will bring about economic prosperity in the area and project authority would be mandated to undertake special tribal developmental programmes including their sustainable livelihood.

Bureau Report

Indian govt backs controversial Vedanta mine plan

NEW DELHI, (Reuters)

5th October 2007

The Indian government backed on Friday a controversial project by Britain's Vedanta Resources Plc (VED.L: Quote, Profile, Research) to mine bauxite in sacred tribal forests, despite complaints from environmentalists and local tribes.

Vedanta wants to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills in a remote part of Orissa state in eastern India, but thousands of tribal people say the project will force them from their homes and destroy their livelihoods.

Activists say the open-cast mine would also wreck the rich biodiversity of the hills and disrupt key water sources that supply springs and streams in the area and feed two rivers which irrigate large farmlands.

But India's environment ministry told the Supreme Court -- where the issue is being fought out -- that the mining would only affect a marginal amount of forest land and that it would have "negligible" impact on flora.

"If the total forest area required for bauxite mining component of the project were to be compared with the total forest area of the district, it works out to be only 0.26 percent," said a ministry report submitted to the court.

Vedanta wants to feed an alumina refinery it has already built in the area, as part of a $800 million project expected to initially produce 1 million tonnes of alumina per year.

Earlier, a Supreme Court committee said that the government had violated its own guidelines by allowing the firm to build the refinery without getting clearance to mine the hills.

The ministry report said "special efforts" would be made to manage and conserve wildlife in the area, which is part of an elephant corridor, shelters leopards and is the only known home in Orissa of the rare golden gecko.

"The operations in these bauxite mining areas will be undertaken with strict regulatory conditions to minimise the impact of noise generated from occasional blasting and vehicular movement on the wildlife," said the report.

The government said other industrial projects occurring in the area had had a significant positive impact on the life of tribal people -- providing direct and indirect employment, service and support opportunities.

"The envisaged bauxite mining projects in these districts will bring about economic prosperity," it said.

Vedanta's planned mine has become one of the most controversial projects among several involving foreign and local investors as eastern India tries to industrialise and exploit its vast mineral resources.

High court stays land acquisition for varsity

OUR CORRESPONDENT, The Telegraph, Kolkota

Cuttack, Oct. 6: The proposed international university to be set up by the Vedanta group in the state has hit a roadblock. The high court has stayed the land acquisition process for the project.

The wish of London-based Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources Corporation to acquire land along the Puri-Konark marine drive for its proposed Rs 15,000 crore university project suffered a jolt as the Orissa High Court issued a stay order on the land acquisition process undertaken by the state government.

The two-judge bench of Justice I.M. Qudussi and Justice Sanju Panda issued the interim order on Friday hearing a petition filed by Rajiv Pujari, the managing director of Sun Green Valley.

The outcome of the case assumes significance as the Vedanta group’s interest in establishing India’s first and only world class, multi-disciplinary university on a par with Stanford, Oxford and Harvard universities hinges on it. The Anil Agarwal Foundation had already announced an endowment of $1 billion for the university.

The state government is committed to provide 8,000 acres of land on the Puri-Konark marine drive, 60km from Bhubaneswar, as part of a MoU it had signed with the Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF) in July last year.

The state government had initiated the land acquiring process with a 28.30-acre patch under Beladala mouza in the marine drive region.

Sun Green Valley, a tourism promoting company, moved the court challenging the state government’s decision and sought a stay on the allotment of the land to Vedanta Resources Corporation.

Yashobant Das, the counsel for Sun Green Valley, pointed out in the court that a tourism promoting project envisaging a water park and a museum was underway on the 28.30 acre of land when the government issued a notification for acquiring it for the proposed university. Though an appeal was filed for cancellation of the notification, the government turned it down.

The next hearing of the case would take place on November 14, the two-judge bench said, ordering an injunction on the land acquiring process for the proposed university till further orders.

The court also called for submission of the MoU signed between the Anil Agarwal Foundation and the state government to set up the university while issuing notices to the Puri collector. The proposed university is expected to start functioning next year.

Vedanta in talks to buy US copper mining co: Srcs

1st October 2007

Anil Agarwal, who promoted Vedanta, now seems keen to join the multi-billion dollar acquisition club. Sources said that Vedanta is in talks to acquire a copper mining company in the US.

The talks are at a preliminary stage. The target company is close to bankruptcy, it is a Chapter 11 company. It revenues are above USD 1.5 billion , but the company is not doing so well.

In FY07, Vedanta had revenues of USD 6.5 billion and a net profit of USD 934 million. It produces copper, aluminium, zinc and lead. It recently acquired 51% in Sesa Goa for an EV of USD 1.4 billion. It has USD 7.5 billion worth of investment plans.

The management of Vedanta has declined to comment on market speculation.

Vedanta Resources to increase pig iron production

New Delhi, (PTI)

5th October 2007

Vedanta Resources would increase pig iron production to 1 million tons in its plant recently acquired with the takeover of miner Sesa Goa and will seek expressions of interest from firms capable of supplying the equipment for the same.

"Vedanta Resources wants to increase pig iron production to 1 MT per year at the plant in India that it recently acquired with the takeover of iron ore miner Sesa Goa," Steel Business Briefing (SBB) reports.

Sesa Goa's subsidiary Sesa Industries currently operates two blast furnaces with a combined capacity of 290,000 tons per year, it said and pointed out that "Vedanta wants to increase this to 600,000 tons per year and add a third blast furnace to produce 400,000 tons of foundry grade pig iron."

Besides, a new sinter plant and coking battery are included in the expansion, SBB added.


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