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Jairam willing to reconsider Vedanta refinery

New Delhi: Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday he was willing to revive Vedanta Resources’ plans to expand its refinery in Orissa, provided the firm met certain conditions.

Jairam Ramesh Ramesh, whose push for green laws has put him on a collision path with industry and halted hundreds of projects, may show a willingness to accommodate economic growth and jobs, mindful of their impact on voters.

The remarks on Vedanta come a day after the ministry said it could consider approving Hindustan Construction Co’s Lavasa housing project on conditions that included a penalty payment and the setting up of a green restoration fund.

Ramesh threw out plans by the London-listed miner to expand its alumina refinery over green worries in October. The firm is already facing hurdles to a planned $9.6-billion energy deal in the country.

Vedanta operates a 1-million tonne-a-year alumina refinery in eastern Orissa and wants to expand its capacity six-fold.

Months before, the company’s plans to source bauxite from mines in Orissa had also been shot down by Ramesh’s ministry.

“Mining is a closed chapter, but as far as the expansion project is concerned we can consider it for environment clearance, provided they meet some conditions,” Ramesh told Reuters.

The conditions included Vedanta dropping a court challenge to the environment ministry ruling on its Orissa refinery and applying again for permission to expand operations.

Vedanta is among several top corporations, including South Korea’s Posco, whose Indian projects face delays, as a proactive environment ministry tightens rules that often bring it into conflict with other government ministries pushing for rapid industrialisation.

Vedanta officials, including Chairman Anil Agarwal, met Ramesh this week to discuss reviving their Orissa project.

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