In a setback to the Orissa government and Anil Agarwal-led Sterlite Industries, the Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the Indian arm of the UK-based Vedanta Group from carrying out bauxite mining in Niyamgiri Hills till the gram sabha of districts Rayagada and Kalahandi in the state give clearance to it.
The apex court also cancelled 49 mining leases, reporting maximum illegalities, in Bellary, Tumkur and Chitradurga districts of Karnataka. It, however, ordered resumption of mining activity where the SC-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had found lesser illegalities.
The order by a special bench headed by Justice Aftab Alam came on Orissa Mining Corporation’s petition challenging Ministry of Environment and Forest’s (MoEF’s ) decision to cancel the environmental clearance granted to Sterlite for mining purposes. It gave three months to the gram sabhas to decide on the issues arising out of the mining project, including that of the tribals residing in the area. On receiving the report from gram sabhas, the MoEF would take action in the next two months.
Vedanta group declined to comment on the court ruling.
The Supreme Court said illegal iron ore mining on the Andhra-Karnataka border would remain suspended till the demarcation of boundary between the two states is completed.
JSW Steel, the largest in Karnataka, said it will be a “breather” for the steel industry in the state, which was on the brink of closure due to ore crunch. “This relief not only provides breather to the industry but also assists in providing of direct and indirect employment as well as livelihood for several people employed in the sector,” said Seshagiri Rao, joint MD and group CFO, JSW Steel.