Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Odisha to make fresh bid for Niyamgiri mining

Business Standard, Oct 28, 2015
More than two years after local tribals nixed plan to mine bauxite on top of hills, straddling and Rayagada districts, the government is gearing up to conduct fresh palli sabhas and woo tribals in favour of the project.
The state government is making a renewed bid to mine atop the ecologically fragile hills since its PSU OdishaCorporation (OMC) is still the leaseholder even after the tribals unanimously trumped the mining plan at gram sabhas held in July-August 2013.
"The state government is keen to hold gram sabhas again for Niyamgiri bauxite mining. We will seek legal opinion on whether we should seek permission of the Supreme Court or the Union ministry of environment & forest to conduct the gram sabhas," said steel & mines minister Prafulla Mallick.
Experts feel the road is going to be tough for the state government to restart the gram sabhas given the unfavourable ambience at the ground level.
"The gram sabhas for Niyamgiri bauxite mining were conducted as per the directions of the Supreme Court. Now, the state government has to seek permission from the apex court to start the process again. I believe this is going to be tough", said mines expert and former director of mines with Odiha government, B K Mohanty.
Niyamgiri hills has 72 million tonne of bauxite reserves. Bauxite mined from this hill top was supposed to feed Vedanta's alumina refinery installed at the foothills.

OMC had formed South West Bauxite Mining Company (Pvt) Ltd, a joint venture with 26% equity of Sterlite Industries India Limited (SIIL) in 2009 for mining bauxite over Niyamgiri.
But, plans to mine bauxite came unstuck as tribals of 12 hill slope villages in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts gave a thumbs down to the project, claiming community and worship rights over the entire Niyamgiri hill range.

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