Govt halts expansion of Vedanta refinery

Company can continue its existing operations
Last Updated 21 October 2010, 18:33 IST

The ministry rejected Vedanta’s proposal to expand its production capacity from the present level of one million tonne per annum to six million tonne. The company is also not allowed to expand its 75 MW captive power unit to a 300 MW one.

Vedanta has been asked to maintain status quo at the site without any further construction of the expansion project, the ministry said in an order, issued after the company officials were given a chance to present their defence to the ministry.

In a separate order, the ministry permitted the company to continue with its existing one million tonne a year refinery, provided it maintained a minimum level of forested area around the plant, monitored pollution levels and submitted an irrevocable bank guarantee of Rs 10 crore (valid for three years) to Orissa State Pollution Control Board within 15 days for implementation of all environment protection measures.

The action was taken as per the recommendations of the N C Saxena Commission which found gross violations of green laws in the expansion that the refinery undertook without prior permissions from the ministry.

Despite repeated notices from the state pollution control board as well as the Centre, the firm went ahead with its planned expansion even though it did not have the permission.

Another key violation was grabbing 26.123 ha of forest land where traditionally villagers had access. The company in collusion with government officials forcibly evicted the villagers to occupy the land. Also it has illegally constructed a conveyor corridor.

The second body-blow to Vedanta came following the Centre’s cancellation of forest clearances for the proposed  Rs 8,400-crore bauxite mine on the Niyamgiri Hills for violating multiple environment protection and tribal rights laws.

‘Action at appropriate time’

Reacting to Thursday’s decision of the Union Forest and Environment Ministry halting the Vedanta expansion programme in its aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh, the Orissa government said it would initiate appropriate action at an appropriate time, DHNS reports from Bhubaneswar.

“Once we receive the appropriate communication from the Union forest and environment ministry, appropriate action will be taken by the government,” said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

(Published 21 October 2010, 18:33 IST)

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