OMC assails environment ministry for denying nod to bauxite project

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 12:30 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) The Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) Friday opposed the decision of the union environment and forest ministry to deny the stage II clearance to the joint venture with Sterlite Industries for bauxite mining in the state's Niyamgiri hills.

OMC is 26 percent stake holder in the joint venture project with Sterlite.

The ministry Aug 30, 2010 rejected the Stage II clearance for the diversion of 660.749 hectares of forest land for mining bauxite ore in Lanjigarh bauxite mines in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts in Odisha.

Subsequently, the ministry by its July 11, 2011 order withdrew the environmental clearance, the OMC said.

Narrating the sequence of events, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, who appeared for OMC, told the apex court forest bench of Justice Aftab Alam, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar that the ministry could not have denied the permission after the apex court gave its nod to the bauxite mining project in 2008.

Venugopal told the court that the most unfortunate part of the denial of environmental permission was that it was based on the same grounds that the environment ministry had earlier relied in the case before the court.

All these grounds were raised by the government before the apex court in the course of its 21 hearings spread over two years before the court gave the green signal for the bauxite mining project, he said.

The court gave its nod to the project after it considered four reports from the Central Empowered Committee on environmental matters and other government institutions, he added.

As Venugopal contended that violations being cited by the environmental ministry in denying the stage II clearance for the project were prior to top court clearance to the project, Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman told the court that "these (violations) were not the rehash of what had already taken place but what took place after the Supreme Sourt gave its clearance to the project".

The court is hearing the petition by the OMC challenging the ministry's Aug 30, 2010 order.

The matter will come up for further hearing Nov 23.

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