Tightening it screws over Anil Aggarwal promoted Vedanta Resources, the environment ministry has claimed that its view were never sought on the company plan to expand its aluminum refinery in Orissa.
Vedanta in a reply to the ministry’s show cause notice on August 31 for cancelling environment clearance to its plant in Kalahandi district had said the ministry’s clearance for six fold expansion was not required. The reply was submitted on Wednesday.
The firm had reportedly contended that the clearance was granted under Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006, which didn’t require a separate approval for expansion. Any expansion within the premises of the approved project was considered deemed approved.
The ministry does not seem to agree and is likely to ask the firm whether it sought ministry’s views about its expansion plans or not. “Obviously, if you increase the size of the plant its environment impact will be more. It has to be examined,” said a government functionary.
What has amazed the ministry is that the facts now being raised by Vedanta were never brought before the N.C. Saxena committee, which had inspected the plant in Lanjigarh and sought explanation about the expansion.
“No such explanation was given,” said a panel member Pramod Kant, who had visited the firm and given details of the expansion-related work.
The firm had started six-fold expansion of its refinery in Lanjigrah without obtaining ministry’s clearance. The refinery got permission for output of one million tonnes in 2003 and had applied for expansion in 2007, for which permission is yet to be given.
If the expansion is allowed, the entire bauxite reserves in Nyamgiri hills will be exhausted in four years, creating an ecological havoc, the report said.
What is apparent is that the issue of cancellation of clearance to Vedanta is heading for a long haul. The ministry is willing to hear Vedanta officials on the show cause notice after examining the reply.
But, if the firm is aggrieved with the ministry’s final view it can approach the Supreme Court, which had approved the project in 2008.