Uncertainty looms over Vedanta Resources’ proposed bauxite mining plan atop Niyamgiri Hills in India’s Odisha state after the remaining four Indian tribal village councils voted against the project.
Vedanta Resources, which is owned by businessman Anil Agarwal, is an India-focused metals and mining company headquartered in the UK.
The company plans to mine the Niyamgiri hill range, which is believed to be the home of deity Niyam Rajawhich worshipped by the local tribe Dongria Kondhhome.
In April 2013, India’s top court ruled that the decision to allow Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in two districts of the eastern state rests with local tribes.
Following this, the state decided to conduct ‘Palli Sabha’ – a village meeting – in 12 villages to look into environmental and religious issues and the rights of the tribes.
Eight of the 12 gram sabhas had already voted against the project.
India is one of the largest producers of bauxite in the world.
With the completion of all the proposed 12 meetings, a final report is set to be submitted by the state to the Supreme Court at the end of August in order to take a final decision.
India’s Union Ministry of Environment and Forest will also review the report and annouce its decision on the project.
Vedanta Resources formed a joint venture with the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation to develop the mine under a memorandum of understanding.
The proposed Niyamgiri mine was expected to supply 72 million tonnes of bauxite to the company’s alumina refinery plant located at the Lanjigarh, Orissa, which was re-opened early this month.
In 2010, the Environment ministry rejected the proposal to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri Hills.
However, Vedanta and its partner, the Odisha Mining Corporation, the actual lessee of the mines, filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against this decision.
Image: India is one of the largest producers of bauxite in the world. Photo: Courtesy of Werner Schellmann.