Central team probes land grab charge against Vedanta | india | Hindustan Times
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Central team probes land grab charge against Vedanta

india Updated: Jan 30, 2010 15:10 IST

IANS
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A central team is visiting a mining site in Orissa's Niyamgiri hills to probe the allegation against British mining major Vedanta that it had grabbed forest land, officials said on Saturday.

The union ministry of environment and forests team, led by senior official Usha Ramnath, visited Niyamgiri hill in the district of Kalahandi and inspected the site to find out if the mining major has flouted government guidelines, district collector R Santhanagopalan told IANS.

The two-member team that arrived in the state on Thursday is expected to hold discussions with local tribals and officials before departing for New Delhi Monday, he said.

It is the second union forest and environment ministry team to visit the site in the past one month in the wake of allegations that the company had carried out construction work on government land in violation of ministry guidelines.

Vedanta Alumina, part of the Anil Agarwal-promoted Vedanta Resources Plc, has built an alumina refinery at an investment of $800 million at the foot of the Niyamgiri hills, where production has already started.

The firm, which is currently sourcing bauxite from other states at market rates, said mining permission in the hills was essential for it to reduce cost of production.

The project to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills - held sacred by the locals and awaiting central nod - has been vehemently opposed by residents and social activists.

A state investigating team had conducted a probe in November in the same site, some 600 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, and said it did not find any illegal construction activities by the company.

"The construction was done in non-forest area which the government has already handed over to the firm, and it is not unlawful," Santhanagopalan, who had led the state government team, said.

"There was no construction by the firm either found in the mining lease area or outside of the plant area," he said.

The union forest and environment ministry teams have however not revealed their findings.