The apex court order asking Vedanta Group to take the gramasabha nod has made the future of the alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium in Kalahandi,Orissa,uncertain. The refinery was shut down on December 5,2012.
The refinery at Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi has been facing ore supply shortage since August 2010 when the Ministry of Environment and Forest withdrew the stage II forest clearance for mining of bauxite-rich Niyamgiri Hills.
Vedanta continued to look for the ore from its suppliers in Gujarat,Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh till it could not find any more supplier. Even the Orissa government has not been able to give any help.
Project opponents like Congress MP from Kalahandi,Bhakta Charan Das,and activist Prafulla Samantra hailed the verdict. Das said the verdict is a blow to the state government which had favoured Vedanta. The SC order would ensure that the voice of the local people is heard and religious sentiments of the primitive tribals honoured, he said.
Officials of Orissa Mining Corporation said the proposal to route the process through gramsabha may delay the process. Its a positive judgement as the SC rejected the contention of the environmentalists over biodiversity,wildlife and habitat rights of tribals. The court has only said the religious rights have to be settled. But if the gramsabhas reject mining proposal over Niyamgiri,then the same can be challenged in the SC, said Saswat Mishra,Managing Director of the corporation.
OMC has formed a joint venture company with Vedanta in 2004 in 74:26 partnership.
The OMC MD said the SC judgement however has made it very clear that the tribal God Niyam-Raja on Nimagiri,the highest peak on the Niyamgiri mountain range,was 10 km away from the Niyam-Dangar where mining is proposed. All that the gramsabhas now need to consider is whether mining in Niyam-Dangar would in any way affect the abode of Niyam-Raja, he said.
Vedanta officials welcomed the judgement saying they could not have expected a better judgement. Its up to the OMC and the state government to finish the hearing process in Gramsabha within the stipulated time. I hope my plant starts running at the earliest possible opportunity. We have been suffering for long, said Vedanta Aluminium CEO Mukesh Kumar.