MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Indian High Court halts Vedanta's bauxite mining

Published by MAC on 2008-11-24

Although Vedanta's operations in Orissa - specifically its planned bauxite mining of the Nyamgiri hills - have attracted considerable international criticism, prompting a number of major India and
UK NGOs to adopt campaigns, comparatively little has been said about its other mining projects on the sub-continent.

Now, thanks to action taken by activists in Tamil Nadu, Vedanta's subsidiary MALCO has had to stop mining bauxite in the Kolli Hills. The campainers have also said they will bring a civil prosecution against the company's management.

The realities of Vedanta's recent operations in the the Kolli amd Yercaud Hills and this region were first exposed in "Ravages through India " published in 2005, by Nostromo Research and the India Resource Center.

The issues were again taken upon this website in August 2007. See: http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=8935


MALCO to stop illegal mining in Kolli Hills

PRESS RELEASE

Speak-Out Salem & Corporate Accountability Desk

21st November 2008

CHENNA, - Confronted with evidence that its bauxite mines had no permission under various environmental laws, MALCO Ltd, a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, gave an undertaking to the Madras High Court that it will stop its illegal mining of bauxite in Kolli Hills with immediate effect. The company has operated the bauxite mines without permissions for more than 10 years, said the Salem-based petitioner Piyush Sethia. Sethia heads a voluntary organization called "Speak Out Salem." The petitioners demonstrated that the company's mining lease expired in 1998. The company's Consent to Operate issued by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board under the Air and Water Acts expired in 2002. MALCO's mines also do not have permission from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, or environmental or forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. Advocate V. Nagasaila of the Madras High Court is appearing for the petitioner.

Going by bauxite production figures declared by Vedanta in its 2008 annual report, the company is estimated to have removed more than 3 million tons of bauxite containing earth from the Kolli Hills with no permissions since 2002. Kolli Hills is a highly biodiverse region, known for its medicinal plants and water resources.

Bauxite from the Hills are processed at Malco's alumina smelter and refinery in Mettur Dam. Residents of Mettur Dam have raised numerous objections relating to the company's toxic waste and coal handling, and pollution. The company has created a mountain of toxic "Red Mud" - a highly caustic by-product of smelting - on the banks of the Stanley Reservoir on River Kaveri.

Information obtained through Right to Information reveals that the company has constructed a new thermal power plant in Mettur Dam without permission from the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. Also, the Board admits that the company's coal yard in Mettur Railway Station is operating without any license from the regulatory agency.

"Operating without license from the Pollution Control Board is the norm in Tamilnadu. The Board is either unwilling to or incapable of punishing violators, especially if they are big companies," said Sethia.

Violations of the Environmental Protection Act, Air Act and Water Act are punishable offences attracting a maximum of five years jail sentence and fine for company's directors who can be demonstrably linked to the violation. The Environmental Protection Act empowers citizens to prosecute company officials if the statutory authorities - the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board -- vested with that responsibility fail to do so. "We will initiate citizen prosecution against Malco's management, including Board chairman Mr. Navin Agarwal," said Sethia.

For more information, contact:
Piyush Sethia - 9443248582
Nityanand Jayaraman - 9444082401

Speak-Out Salem & Corporate Accountability Desk
c/o 42A, 1st Floor, 5th Avenue , Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090


Vedanta :Illegal mining in Kolli Hills stayed

Express News Service (India)

21st November 2008

CHENNAI/SALEM:The Madras High Court, on Thursday, issued a stay on bauxite mining by MALCO Ltd in Kolli Hills, acting on a petition filed by Piyush Sethia of the voluntary organisation 'Speak Out Salem'.

Advocate V Nagasaila, appearing for the petitioners, pleaded that the company's mining lease expired in 1998 and its Consent to operate issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board expired in 2002.

Also, its mines do not have permission from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, environmental or forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. MALCO LTD, which is a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, gave an undertaking to the Madras High Court that it will stop the illegal mining in Kolli Hills with immediate effect.

Kolli Hills is a highly bio-diverse region, known for its medicinal plants and water resources

"Going by bauxite production figures declared by Vedanta in its 2008 annual report, the company is estimated to have removed more than 3 million tonnes of bauxite from the Kolli Hills despite having no permission to do so since 2002.The company has also created a mountain of toxic 'red mud' _ a highly caustic by-product of smelting _ on the banks of the Stanley Reservoir on River Cauvery," environmental activists charged.

They added that based on the information obtained through Right to Information Act, the company's new thermal plant was constructed near Mettur without Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board 's permission and also the Board admitted coal yard in Mettur Railway was operating without licence.

"Operating without a licence from the TNPCB seems to have become a norm in state. The Board is either unwilling to or incapable of punishing big sharks. MALCO was literally allowed to plunder the Hills.They mined and transported at least 200 loads of ore a day," said Sethia.The environmental impact and its repercussions for the tribals were scientifically analysed and presented to the court.

The punishment for the violations of the Environmental Protection Act, Air Act and Water Act would be a maximum of five years jail sentence.

The Environmental Protection Act also empowers citizens to prosecute company officials if the statutory authorities - the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board - fail to do so. "We will initiate citizen prosecution against MALCO's management, including Board chairman Navin Agarwal," said Sethia.

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