Niyamgiri mining: Focus now on stakeholders

Bhubaneswar: After the Supreme Court asked the Odisha government to file a fresh petition in connection with mining in Niyamgiri by including all stakeholders as parties, all eyes are now on who it will include as stakeholders.

Steel and Mines minister Prafulla Mallick said he has not gone through the details of the directive of the apex court. “We can say about the steps the government is going to take only after going through the directive,” he added.

Talking to OTV on Saturday, former director, state Steel and Mines department, BK Mohanty, said the stakeholders are the Steel and Mines department, the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), the state government, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the ministry of Tribal Affairs. Besides, the representatives of the Gram Sabhas, who had participated in the public hearing in 2013, will also be included.

“The government will file a petition in the apex court after involving all of them,” Mohanty pointed out.

In his reaction, Prafulla Samantara, convener of Lokshakti Abhiyan, said the Gram Sabhas have already taken a decision to protect the biodiversity of Niyamgiri.

“My suggestion to the state government is that it should try its best to protect the properties of Niyamgiri and the rights of the tribals instead of spending crores of rupees in filing petitions in the Supreme Court to safeguard the interest of the Vedanta,” he observed.

Notably, the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) had filed an interlocutory application in the apex court seeking a review of the 2013 decision.

The apex court decision was based on the views of 12 the gram sabhas, which unanimously disallowed mining at Niyamgiri hills, which is linked to Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina refinery.

Though the OMC has the lease for the Niyamgiri hills, the major beneficiary would be Vedanta under a joint venture agreement between the two.

In 2013, 12 gram sabhas in and around the hill range, which were conducted as per a directive from the Supreme Court, had voted emphatically against mining in Niyamgiri hills.