Centre set to allow Sesa Goa to resume mining

State Forest department had pointed to violations by firm

Centre set to allow Sesa Goa to resume mining

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has paved the way for Sesa Goa, an arm of the Vedanta Group, to resume mining in 164 hectares (ha) of land in the Nirthady forest of Chitradurga.

This, despite the State Forest department suggesting that there have been several violations that are yet to be rectified, including encroachment of 15.47 ha of forest land.

On February 23, the principal secretary to the department of Forest, Environment and Ecology submitted a fresh proposal seeking prior approval of the Central government for diversion of 161.54 ha of forest land for renewal of mining lease number 2236 and 3.25 ha for approach road i.e., for a total of 164.79 ha in the Nirthady Reserve Forest.

During the same period, the State Forest department carried out a site inspection of the forest with regard to the mining licence renewal proposal. On May 31, the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) (Central), K S Reddy, dispatched a ‘not so favourable’ report to B K Singh, Director (Forest Conservation), New Delhi.

In his report, Reddy stated that four forest offence cases have been booked against the User Agency, Sesa Goa, of which two cases are still pending. 

This included the December 20, 2012, case of ‘Encroachment of forest for dump, mining pit and others as per the findings of the CEC and lease sketch approved by the CEC, to an extent of 10.47 ha”.

A site inspection by the CCF (Central), S M  Somashekar, showed that despite the sketches by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), with which the demarcation of forest land was carried out, Sesa Goa had encroached about five ha of forest land.

The field inspection suggested that even Compensatory Afforestation (CA) was not carried out as originally proposed, but had been done on an alternative land without the permission of MoEF.

The field visit showed that some of the dumps have steep slopes with potential for soil erosion, apart from violations by the company by cutting trees without prior permission of the Forest department.

The report by the Additional PCCF said that under the Forest Clearance approval, two primary conditions were: (i) overburden will not be dumped on the hill slopes and (ii) waste generated will not be dumped in the forest area and will be dumped only in the abandoned quarries within the leasehold area.

“But, it was noticed that large areas of the hill slopes have been covered by overburden, destroying the vegetation. Most of the slopes are affected due to the dumps being built from the bottom of the hill. Waste generated has not been dumped in the existing abandoned quarries.

Some of the waste generated was dumped in the non-forest area adjacent to the lease area,” reads the report.

However, on June 10 and 11, at the meeting of the Forest Advisory Committee, Sesa Goa was virtually handed over the mining renewal licence, with the committee stating: “After discussion, the committee recommended the proposal with standard conditions and additional conditions of compliance to all conditions stipulated by the Supreme Court”.

Company version

Admitting that the clearance for their mining licence renewal was imminent, Sesa Goa, in a statement, said that there was no case filed against them in the matter of encroachments.

The apex court had already delivered its judgment on the issue in April.

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