Vedanta yet to get final clearance for Orissa bauxite project

The Union government will provide final clearance for Vedanta’s bauxite mining project in Orissa only if there is no violation of the Forest Conservation Act

The Indian government on Wednesday said that the Vedanta Group’s bauxite mining project in Orissa would be given a final clearance only if it doesn't violate the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

A final clearance would be considered only after the ministry does not find any violation of norms under the Act and locals have agreed to the project after their rights are settled, environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh told PTI.

“Already a month has passed since I have written a letter to the Orissa government and asked the chief conservator of forests to probe into it,” he said, adding that he will be receiving the report soon.

Mining behemoth Vedanta’s bauxite mining project at the Nyamgiri hills has been vehemently opposed by the locals, who regard the place as sacred. The Kondh tribals of Orissa say they worship the Nyamgiri as the abode of their deity Nyam Raja.

The ministry had issued a binding guideline to all the state governments last August that application for diversion of forest land for other purposes would be considered only after all due processes contained in the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 have been fully and satisfactorily completed, Mr Ramesh said.

Vedanta had got in-principle approval in December 2008 for 800 acres for bauxite mining at Nyamgiri, out of which 350 acres were in the reserved forest area, the minister said.

According to the norms, a company cannot begin construction even in non-forest areas unless it receives a final clearance from the ministry. However, there are allegations that the company has already begun construction.

The minister said that since October he had done away with the system of two-stage approval (in-principle and final approval).

"Since October, we have introduced a single clearance system. While considering projects for approval, environmental issues and local interests are kept in balance," Mr Ramesh said.

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