Digging out more dirt on the Orissa government over bauxite mining for Vedanta Resources, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the environment ministry has said that 11 of the 14 mines in the Lanjigarh area are “illegal”.
This revelation has been made in a regional office report of the ministry on alleged mining violations in the area. Earlier, the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) had said 60 per cent of mining in the state was illegal.
The FAC, in its report to Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday, has sought action against the state government for not taking Centre’s approval before starting mining operations.
The committee, which deliberated over the N.C. Saxena committee report over the weekend, has upheld the report and rejected approval to the project on five broad issues. These include violations under three Central laws — Forest Conservation Act, Forest Rights Act and Environment Protection Act (EPA) — and one state law — Orissa Villages Act.
In the five-page report, the FAC has also objected to Vedanta Resources working in the mining area though the in-principle approval for bauxite mining was given to public sector Orissa Mining Corporation.
“There is clear evidence that Vedanta is working in the mining areas in Nyamgiri Hills even though it has no role to play,” a government official said.
The corporation can mine up to one three million tonnes of bauxite for Vedanta refinery.
Although the FAC has no jurisdiction over the alleged expansion of Vedanta Resources refinery without ministry’s environment clearance, the panel has suggested that action be initiated under the EPA.
Vedanta Resources said there was no violation as they had applied for expansion but the ministry did not consider it within the required 145 days. “The law clearly says if there is no communication from the ministry, the project is deemed as approved,” the company spokesperson said.
Ramesh, who met Orissa chief minister Navin Pathnaik on Monday, is expected to decide on final approval to the project on Tuesday. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is also visiting Lanjigarh on August 26.