SC directs Vedanta to take Gram Sabha consent for mining in Niyamgiri Hills

New Delhi: Pronouncing the much awaited verdict on mining in Niyamgiri hills, the Supreme Court on Thursday directed Vedanta Alumina Ltd (VAL) to get Gram Sabha consent for bauxite mining in the mineral rich hills of Kalahandi district.

The Chief Justice of Odisha High Court will appoint a representative who will be present at the Gram Sabha hearings, the Supreme Court said, adding the ban on bauxite mining in Niyamgiri will continue till Gram Sabha takes decision in this regard.

The state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) which has a joint venture with Sterlite India Company of the Vedanta Group in March 2011 had challenged the decision of Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) which rejected forest clearance to Niyamgiri hills in August 2010.

The court had concluded the hearing and reserved the judgment on February 21. In 2008, the apex court had given permission to Sterlite for diversion of 660 hectares of forest land of Niyamgiri hills.

On August 24, 2010, the environment ministry withdrew the Stage II forest clearance for mining bauxite. The move followed after the NC Saxena panel recommended that mining in Niyamgiri would severely affect the ecology as well as the primitive tribal group of Dongria Kondhs, living on the mountain slopes.

It also withdrew the earlier permission given to Vedanta for expansion of its 1 MT alumina refinery to 6 MT at Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi.