Centre institutes probe over illegal bauxite mining


"A central team will visit the site to verify allegations of violations of the terms of the "in-principle" approval under Forest Conservation Act, 1980 by the project proponent," Environment minister Jairam Ramesh said in a statement here.
The team will submit its report to the him within a week.
Ramesh noted that "in-principle" approval given to the project on December 11, 2005 under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 could be converted to a final approval only after the fulfilment of stipulations contained in it were met.
However, NGOs alleged that Vedanta on behalf of Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) had already started activities without getting the final approval.
"The total amount of forest land proposed to be diverted is 660.749 hectares of which around 353.14 hectares is in the Niyamgiri reserved forest. Concerns have also been raised on the impact that this project will, inter alia, have on livelihoods of tribal communities," Ramesh said.

However, this is not the first time the ministry has probed into the concerns raised by various tribal representatives alleging that activities have started even without the final approval of the Centre in violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
A team of the environment ministry had in its report in August too found that mining activity had begun in the non-forest revenue land.

"Technically this (mining) is not a violation of the law, but it is a violation of the ministry's guidelines, which stipulates that when a project involves non-forest and forest lands, mining in the non-forest land should not begin without clearance for activity in the forest land itself," the Minister observed.

Incidentally, the Orissa Government is yet to reply to the ministry, which had sought an explanation as to how the violations of the norms were permitted.
Ramesh made clear that the previous concept of "in-principle" approval was done away with and that projects were now exclusively examined for approval or rejection.

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