Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh has asked the Orissa government to explain how the multinational Vedanta Resources was allowed to carry out construction in non-forest areas at its project sites in Kalahandhi district.
Ramesh said in a statement on Friday that his officials had inspected the bauxite mining site at Niyamgiri, a joint sector project of Vedanta and Orissa Mining Corporation, on August 16 and found constructions in “non-forest land”.
The ministry’s inspection followed complaints by tribal organisations that the company had started construction on non-forest land on behalf of Orissa Mining Corporation without the Centre’s nod.
The ministry, while giving in-principle approval to the Kalahandi bauxite mining projects, said any construction in the non-forest area would need the ministry’s approval.
It had also asked the state to provide evidence of full compliance of the Scheduled Tribe and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act, 2006 before a final clearance of the project was given.
The Act seeks adequate compensation for acquiring land for tribals and forest dwellers.
The minister said, “The reply of the state government in this regard is awaited.”
Vedanta Resources, part of the $6.6 billion metals and mining giant, Vedanta, is implementing various mining projects in Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal justified the group’s focus on India, saying on the company’s website: “India is a fast-emerging and attractive resource destination.”
Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer, Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina project, which covers the Niyamgiri site, said, “We are yet to hear anything... However, we would like to clarify that the company has not violated any law under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.”
The ministry also said another inspection of sites would be conducted next week to look into fresh allegations of environment clearance violation of the terms of in-principle approval.