Vedanta's bauxite mining project clearance after MoEF finding

Vedanta's bauxite mining project clearance after MoEF finding

A final clearance would be considered only after the ministry does not find any violation of norms under the Forest Conservation Act and locals have agreed to the project after their rights are settled, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh said.

"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 receive the report soon.

Mining behemoth Vedanta's bauxite mining project at the Niyamgiri Hills has been vehemently opposed by the locals, who regard the place as sacred.

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, Ramesh said.

Vedanta had got in-principal approval in December 2008 for 800 acres for bauxite mining at Niamgiri hills, out of which 350 acres were in the reserved forest area, he 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-principal and final approval).

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