Niyamgiri mining: HC appoints dist judges as observers

Bhubaneswar: The Orissa High Court on Friday appointed district judges of Kalahandi and Rayagada to supervise the proposed public hearing to be conducted in 12 Niyamgiri Hill slope villages located in jurisdiction of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, respectively.
The apex court in its April 18 judgement had directed the State Government to conduct gram sabhas to decide bauxite mining in the ecologically sensitive Niyamgiri hills and that the gram sabhas will be attended as an observer by a judicial officer of the rank of the District Judge, nominated by the Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court.
The SC had also directed the State Government to place issues concerning individual, community, cultural and religious claims of Scheduled Tribes (STs) and traditional forest dwellers (TFDs) before the gram sabha which would decide the mining issue in three months.
Recently, the ST and SC development department has issued notices to the district collectors of Rayagada and Kalahandi asking them to conduct hearings ahead of gram sabhas at Niyamgiri hill range. The collectors will hear submission of local tribal communities who have religious and cultural concerns over Vedanta Aluminium Ltd’s (VAL) bauxite mining project. 
The proposed mining at Niyamgiri Hills is significant as the state government had committed to Vedanta Group to supply the required bauxite to its refinery from Niyamgiri Hills. However the local people oppose the mining as they consider the Hills as their God.   
According to officials, of the 12 villages on the slopes of the hill, five are located in Kalahandi district while rest seven are in Rayagada district.