Vedanta’s Lanjigarh project (Refinery and bauxite mining) | Centre for Science and Environment


Vedanta’s Lanjigarh project (Refinery and bauxite mining)

 
Timeline  
  • London-based industrialist Anil Agarwal’s Sterlite Industries of India Limited signs memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a mining project with the Orissa government in 1997.

  • Land acquisition and a gram sabha notice issued to villagers for the “proposed Lanjigarh alumina refinery project” on June 6, 2002. According to the notice, 12 villages would be razed, 60 families displaced and 302 families would lose their farmland when project materialised.

  • In March 2003, Sterlite applied to the Union ministry of environment and forests (Mo EF) for environmental clearance for the proposed refinery. The application made no mention of the 58.9 ha of forestland it required.

  • On August 16, 2004, it filed a separate petition for clearances under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980, through the Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Commission.

  • On March 24, 2004, MoEF informed the company that as the refinery would be dependent on the mining proposal being cleared, the ministry would consider the two proposals together.

  • Next day, Vedanta sent MoEF another application arguing that while it would take three years to build the refinery, only a year was required to open the mines.

  • Six months later, on September 22, 2004, MOEF reversed its decision and granted the refinery environmental clearance on condition that Sterlite got mining clearance before “operationalising” the refinery. The approval letter also stated: “The project does not involve diversion of forest land.” This, despite the fact that another division of the ministry had received an application for FCA clearance for the refinery.

  • In November 2004, Orissa’s forest department sent Vedanta a show-cause notice for encroaching on 10.41 acres (4.21 ha) of village forestland for its refinery. Around the same time, several activists separately petitioned CEC to halt the company’s operations.

  • On March 23, 2005, after CEC questioned MoEF about the validity of an environmental clearance, that the ministry directed VAL to halt construction work till clearance was given for the 58.9 ha of forestland within the refinery compound.

  • The next day the company dashed off a letter to MoEF seeking withdrawal of its request for forest clearance for the refinery saying it didn’t need the 58.9 ha after all.

  • The state government sent MoEF a letter recommending withdrawal of the proposal on March 27, 2005, which happened to be a Sunday. The very next day, the ministry withdrew its stop work order, without bothering to look into why the company had changed its stance.

  • In September 2005, CEC recommended to the Supreme Court that mining should not be permitted on Niyamgiri hill. The report was a scathing indictment of the project and questioned the integrity of the authorities involved.

  • In February 2006, the apex court referred the matter to MoEF’s Forest Advisory Committee (FAC)— which looks into diversion of forestland for non-forest purposes—and asked for a report in three months.

  • FAC, in turn, asked the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL), to assess the project for soil erosion and impact on water resources.

  • CMPDIL, according to Vedanta’s lawyers’ statements during Supreme Court hearings on May 16 and May 18, 2007, cleared the project of all water-related concerns.

  • However, WII’s report submitted in June 2006 warned that bauxite mining in Niyamgiri plateau would destroy a specialised wildlife habitat. However, following a special presentation by Orissa forest officers, the institute tagged on a supplementary report in October 2006, which included a Rs 42-crore plan for mitigation of impact on wildlife.

  • Based on the two reports, FAC recommended diversion of forestland for the mining project.

  • However, in another matter, the Supreme Court had already ordered a review of clearances granted by FAC after September 15, 2006, which included the VAL project.

  • On December 8, 2006, the court asked CEC to file more comments. When the matter was heard on May 16 and 18, 2007, CEC iterated its stand that MoEF had acted irresponsibly and with “undue haste” in granting Vedanta clearances.

  • While case pending in the Supreme court, the refinery operated with bauxite from Vedanta’s Chhattisgarh mines.

  • In-principle clearance for 660.749 ha of forestland for mining was granted on December 11, 2008. Further, in April 2009, forest clearance was given for an additional area of 33.73 ha.

  • Public hearing for 6 folds expansion of the refinery was held on April 26, 2009.

  • Clearance by the MoEF to the mining project of Vedanta on April 28, 2009 despite widespread protests.

  • Temporary withdrawal of clearance rights by the MoEF on the recommendations of FAC on August 24.08.10

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