An Environment Ministry committee on Monday denied permission to the Vedanta Resources' bauxite mining project in Orissa citing violations of various laws.
The committee said the ministry cannot approve the project in Lanjigarh (Kalahandi district) -- home of Kuntia Kondh and Dongoria primitive tribes -- until the forest dwellers' rights are recognised under the Forest Rights Act and the gram sabha gives its consent.
"This committee is of the firm view that allowing mining in the proposed mining lease area by depriving two primitive tribal groups of their rights... in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of the tribals in the law of the land," said N C Saxena panel, in a report submitted to the ministry.
The Environment ministry had given in-principle approval for mining by Orissa Mining Corporation for Vedanta's refinery in December 2008 following a Supreme Court order. The refinery is running on minerals imported from Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.
The ministry was unable to act against Vedanta despite several complaints till Attorney General G E Vahanvati this July said the court had not taken away the ministry's power to review its earlier decision, thereby turning Saxena committee findings vital for future of the project.
"The report will be considered by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), which will make recommendations to me. I will take the final call after considering all issues pertaining to Vedanta's mining project," Ramesh said.
The FAC will look at the report on August 20 and the ministry is expected to deliver its verdict within a fortnight.
Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal told agencies that the company will "abide by law" and will start mining after getting clearance from the central government. The group has proposed an estimated Rs 50,000 crore investment in the state.
There can be more trouble for Vedanta, as the panel has found that the company had started work for six-fold expansion of its aluminum refinery in Lanjigrah without obtaining the ministry's clearance.