Niyamgiri mining: SC asks Odisha to file fresh petition

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Odisha government to file a fresh petition in connection with the Niyamgiri mining case including all stakeholders as parties.

A three-judge bench of the apex court directed the State government to include the affected people, including tribals, as parties in the contentious case.

Notably, the State government’s mining arm Odisha Mineral 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.

The apex court had ordered the State government to conduct the gram sabhas as the Niyam Raja shrine, located 10 km from Niyamgiri hills range, is worshipped by tribals, especially Dongaria Kondhs, a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG).

Before knocking on the doors of the apex court, the State government had written to the Union Environment and Forests Ministry seeking approval for fresh gram sabhas. But the ministry asked for a fresh proposal for forest and environment clearances as it had earlier cancelled clearances of the mining project following the referendum of the gram sabhas.