Vedanta The environment ministry on Tuesday rejected a plan by India-focused mining group Vedanta Resources Plc to mine

bauxite in Orissa, dealing a blow to the company already struggling with regulatory issues in India. The decision pertains to one mining site in Orissa where it runs an alumina refinery on bauxite imported from elsewhere in India. The decision was announced in a government statement. The company is facing regulatory hurdles in its bid for control of Cairn India, a potential deal valued at $9.6 billion that can give billionaire Anil Agarwal-led group a slice of India's oil reserves and exposure of surging demand. "There have been serious violations of environment protection acts," Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters, while rejecting Vedanta's mining plans that could destroy heavily forested hills sacred to local tribal populations. "There is no emotion, no politics, no prejudice ... I have taken the decision in a purely legal approach. That these laws are being violated." The Forest Advisory Committee had recommended that the "in-principle clearance" to the mining proposal, put forward by Orissa Mining Corporation, be withdrawn. Vedanta, through its subsidiary Sterlite India, has a joint venture agreement with Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite. The committee s recommendation is based on the fact that claims under the Forest Rights Act have not been settled. Traditional and customary rights as well as age-old access of the Dongaria and Kutia Kondh tribes to the area have been recognised in several forest settlement reports and government working plans. Also, several gram sabhas of the affected villages have passed resolutions claiming community and habitat rights. It is argued that it would be incorrect for the Orissa government to claim that these primitive tribes have no claims or rights under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The affected groups, Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh, are both Scheduled Tribes. The Constitution requires that the government respect and uphold the land rights of the Scheduled Tribes. Additionally, both the Dongaria Kondh and Kutia Kondh have been notified as primitive tribal groups and are, therefore, eligible for special protection. The Niyamgiri Hills are the sole habitat of the two tribes and at least 20% of the Dongaria Kondh population lives in villages in and around the forest blocks of the proposed mining project area. The panel has also recommended action against Vedanta Alumina Refinery at Lanjigarh. It has recommended that steps be taken against the refinery for illegally encroaching and enclosing 26 hectares of forest land. This despite the fact that the environmental clearance was given on the condition that no forest land would be used. Two other violations have been cited. One, the refinery s capacity has increased from 1 million tonnes per year to 6 million tonnes without requisite clearances. Secondly, Vedanta refinery is currently sourcing bauxite from 14 mines, of which 11 do not have any environmental clearance and are hence illegal. The Forest Advisory Committee has also recommended that the state be heard before the minister announces his decision.

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