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Niyamgiri battle

- State fumes as Centre rejects mining plan

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 11: The state government today reacted sharply to the Centre’s decision to reject Vedanta’s plan to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills in Kalahandi district.

Mining of bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills was to be carried out by the state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) and Sterlite Industries Limited, a Vedanta group subsidiary.

Steel and mines minister Rajanikant Singh said: “It is really unfortunate. The UPA government is not serious about the development of the state. No one wants the development of Kalahandi district.”

The Union ministry of environment and forests rejected the mining plan after 12 gram sabhas — held at five villages in Kalahandi and seven villages in Rayagada — unanimously decided not to allow mining on the Niyamgiri hills. The state government submitted the report on the gram sabhas on October 3 last year.

The gram sabhas had been organised in the wake of a Supreme Court judgment of April 18, 2013, which said that bauxite mining in the hill could not take place by trampling upon the religious and culture rights of the local Kondh tribals, who worshipped the Niyamgiri hills as their god.

The matter had gone to the apex court after the Centre rejected stage-II forest clearance to the project in August, 2010.

OMC chairman-cum-managing director Saswat Mishra said: “If the state government asks us to move the Supreme Court on this issue, we will certainly do it. However, the OMC has no bauxite mine from where bauxite can be supplied to the Vedanta plant.”

Sources said the state government was contemplating to move the Supreme Court again on this issue. “The Supreme Court’s order on bauxite mining concerning the Niyamgiri hills has been totally misunderstood. This order is a contempt of the Supreme Court’s order,” said a senior government official.

Vedanta’s one-million-tonne alumina refinery plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district is now running at 70 per cent capacity by bringing in bauxite from various parts of the country.

The Vedanta Group has inked an MoU with Larsen &Toubro to mine two bauxite reserves at Sijimali and Kutumali mines in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts respectively. Both the mines have estimated bauxite deposits of about 300 million tonnes. Larsen & Toubro held prospecting license for these mines.

An anti-displacement activist hailed the Centre’s decision. The petitioner, Prafulla Samantara, who had gone to the Supreme Court with an appeal for banning mining at Niyamgiri, said: “We are happy with the order. Now the state government should dismantle the Vedanta’s Lanjigarh plant.”


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