SC notice to MoEF, Orissa, Sterlite

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today issued notices to Orissa government, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) and the UK-based Vedanta`s Indian arm Sterlite Industries on a petition challenging cancellation of environmental clearance to Niyamgiri Bauxite Mining Project in the state.

A bench of Justice R V Raveendran and Justice A K Patnaik issued notices to the involved parties and sought their replies within four weeks.

It also listed the matter for further hearing after that.

State-run Orissa Mining Corporation has moved the apex court, challenging the Central Government`s decision to reject environmental clearance to Vedanta`s bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills,

Earlier, MoEF had given in-principle approval to the project in 2007.

Contesting the Environment Ministry`s order of August 24, 2010, Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for OMC, submitted before the bench that the Centre`s order was illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the apex court`s earlier directions that gave a green signal to the project.

In a major setback to the UK-based Vedanta group, the Environment Ministry had on August 24 last year rejected the clearance to its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project proposed in Orissa, citing various violation of forest and environmental laws.

The ministry had refused the next stage forest clearance to the state-owned OMC and Sterlite Bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills area in Lanjigarh, Kalahandi and Rayagadha districts, accepting the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) recommendation for withdrawal of the forest and environment clearance.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said, "There has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation and Rights Acts by the Orissa Government" as also violation of norms by the company.

Also, the ministry said that just because it had given an in-principle approval to the project in 2007, it could not be treated as fait accompli.

It also accused Vedanta of having committed several irregularities after the Supreme Court had given a favourable judgement to the project for mining in August 2008.