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In a big blow to Vedanta Resources, government on Tuesday rejected environment clearance to its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Orissa after accepting recommendations of its key panel clearing such ventures.
Giving reasons for the denial of clearance, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters that "there has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation Act and the Forest Rights Act. "There have been no emotions and no politics and no prejudice involved in this report. I have taken this decision in a proper legal approach," he said. Please read: Jairam Ramesh explains the government's decision The decision came after the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) which had submitted the report to Ramesh after reviewing the suggestions given by the NC Saxena panel seeking ban on the mining project in Orissa's Niyamgiri Hills in view of various violations at the site. The Saxena report has citied many violations of the in-principle environment clearance given to Orissa Mining Corporation in 2008 including non-compliance with the provisions of the Forest Rights Act. "The consent certificate of the gram sabha was fake," the panel said in its report while recommending not to approve the project because of large scale violations. Stressing that his Ministry was not getting into any 'witch-hunt', Ramesh said the Orissa government had violated the Forest Rights Act and Vedanta Resources violated the Environment Protection Act (EPA). "We are examining what action has to be taken against the project proponents for violation of various laws including the EPA," he said. Ramesh said he has no prejudices against the Orissa government as his Ministry has cleared an important irrigation project in the state for which the in-principle approval was accorded yesterday. "While rejecting this (Vedanta) project, I have also cleared an important irrigation project in the state in which over 1500 hectares of forest land is involved," the minister said.
The Orissa government today termed as “unfortunate” the Centre’s decision to reject environment clearance to Vedanta’s $ 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Kalahandi district. “It is extremely unfortunate that the Central government has rejected environment clearance to the bauxite mining project for Vedanta,” Orissa’s Industries and Steel and Mines Minister Raghuanth Mohanty told reporters. “Having given in-principle environment clearance to the project long ago, the Union Environment and Forest Ministry has now all of a sudden announced its decision to reject the Stage-II clearance in an improper and inappropriate manner,” he said. After in-principle clearance was accorded for the bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri in Lanjigarh area, considerable progress was made in the work of Vedanta Aluminium Limited which also took steps to augment the capacity of its refinery at Lanjigarh, Mr. Mohanty said. The capacity was sought to be raised from 1 million tonne to six million tonne as part of ambitious plans of Vedanta, official sources said, adding Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd, an arm of Vedanta group, has also deposited Rs. 20 crore as its contribution for scheduled area development of Lanjigarh project in a special account.
the State government pointed out that the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Ranchi-based Central Mining Planning and Design Institute had studied the possible impact of mining on Niyamgiri’s bio-diversity. its wildlife. the State government. “If the Centre takes any final decision basing on the Saxena Committee report. appointed by the MoEF. While strongly protesting to the objections raised by the N C Saxena Committee on the project. welcomed the Centre’s decision saying it was a victory of the struggle of tribals in Niyamgiri area. according to a panel set up to investigate the proposal.” steel and mines minister Raghunath Mohanty pointed out. while recommending the name of Vedanta for forest diversion proposal and environmental clearance required for starting mining activities at ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills in Orissa’s Kalahandi—Rayagada districts. had said: “Hear us before taking any final decision on the proposed mining project“. in a letter to the Union secretary of MoEF. however. had accused the State government of violating at least two acts. The Saxena Committee. “Rather we worked based on the directives of the Supreme Court which earlier heard objections raised by the Saxena committee. the official pointed out that it is one of the appropriate forums to consider views of both the sides. . Stating that inviting State governments to the FAC meeting is not mandatory. impact on soil erosion and water level due to mining activities. Forest Conservation Act and Forest Rights Act. “Though we were hopeful of getting an invitation to place our stand before the FAC. both sides should be given an equal chance to place their points for a solution.Senior Congress leader and former union minister Bhakta Charan Das. This apart.” he said adding that during a controversy.” the official said The Union government should not clear Vedanta's bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa as it violates the environment and forest law. no communication had been received from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) so far. While refuting the objections raised by the committee. the State government claimed that it did not violate any law of the land. “We are ready with all the facts and figures to counter the objections raised by the Saxena committee.” said a senior official at the forest and environment department here. it may not be acceptable for the State government. Though not invited to participate at the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting scheduled to be held in New Delhi tomorrow. the Orissa government is still expecting an opportunity to explain its stand on Vedanta’s controversial Niyamgiri mining project.
which have economic and cultural ties to the land. the Forest Rights Act [FRA]. Mr. violating both the FCA and the EPA. Ramesh said. Ramesh noted.” The mine is a joint venture between Vedanta Aluminium and the Orissa Mining Company. While refusing to discuss his final decision. and a six-fold expansion of the nearby Vedanta refinery without the relevant environmental clearance under the EPA. There are also a large number of questions that have been raised about the Posco Project. Ramesh said a four-member Expert Group. despite the widespread media coverage of the expansion proposal. Jairam Ramesh. While regretting the effectiveness of the regulatory system.” it said. was looking into all cases of violations. “Once I get the report of this group. Replying to supplementaries during Question Hour. “Allowing mining … by depriving two primitive tribal groups of their rights over the proposed mining site to benefit a private company would shake the faith of the tribal people in the laws of the land. headed by Planning Commission member N.“The Vedanta Company has consistently violated the Forest Conservation Act [FCA]. we will take a final call on what the future of this project [Vedanta] would be. Ramesh said he was not aware of either the expansion or the lack of the necessary clearance until the report was handed to him on Monday — this. told the Rajya Sabha on Monday that corporate majors Vedanta and Posco were being investigated for alleged violation of government guidelines. Mr. The report also catalogued the negative impact that the mining is likely to have on the region's biodiversity and on the Dongria and Kutia Kondh tribal communities. “I found out just 10 minutes ago. .” said the report of the four-member panel.” he added. the Forest Advisory Committee will consider the report and make a final recommendation to Union Minister of State (Independent charge) for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh. Minister of State for Environment and Forests. “as a matter of principle. The report was submitted on Monday. “The government will not tolerate any violation of the Forest Conservation Act or any violation of the conditions governing approval. the Environment Protection Act [EPA] and the Orissa Forest Act in active collusion with the State officials.C. it would be a tragedy in this country if you can violate a law and then there is a window available to you for a correction … to pay a penalty and go ahead. Saxena. This also is under investigation by our Ministry.” he told journalists. On Friday.” Mr. Mr. The violations listed by the report include illegal occupation of village forest land. which is currently in Orissa.
Minerals. It was incorrect to say that mining should not be allowed in any forest area. the honest fact and the honest truth is that we do not have an effective regulatory system to deal with illegal mining.” he said. “Whether it is in contravention of the Minerals Act or whether it is in contravention of the Forest Conservation Act.Mr. Minerals had violated the Forest Conservation Act. Ramesh added that the government has set up a Group of Ministers headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and its report was being finalised. Mr. he claimed.D. In Karnataka. Trident Minerals and V. both at the Central level to deal with the major minerals and at the State level to deal with illegal mining in minor minerals. Ramesh denied that the government was handing over more forests to mining companies. Ramesh acknowledged that as far as major minerals were concerned “the honest truth” was that the regulatory system was not effective enough to stop illegal mining. One of its terms of reference is to see how to put in place an effective regulatory system.M. Mr. the Minister pointed out that State governments were responsible for minor minerals. Referring to the killing of an RTI activist in Gujarat for raising issues related to the illegal mining of minerals around the Gir Forest. . S.
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