Vedanta Resources, an India-focused metals and mining company, plans to discuss the fate of its proposed bauxite mining project atop Niyamgiri hills with the Government of Odisha, India, after the firm failed to garner support from local tribes.

The company formed a joint venture with the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation to develop the mine under a memorandum of understanding.

This project would have allowed it to mine bauxite in Orissa to cater to the requirement of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district.

In April 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the decision to allow Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in two districts of the eastern state rests with local tribes.

The Niyamgiri hill range is believed to be the home of deity Niyam Raja, worshipped by the local tribe Dongria Kondhhome.

Following the court verdict, the state decided to conduct gram sabhas (village meetings) in 12 villages to look into environmental and religious issues and the rights of the tribes.

"This project would have allowed it to mine bauxite in Orissa to cater to the requirement of its alumina refinery at Lanjigarh."

So far, seven of the 12 gram sabhas were held in tribal villages, and the majority of the tribals voted against the bauxite mining project.

A Vedanta Resources senior official told The Economic Times the company’s main aim is to run its alumina plant at the Lanjigarh plant through domestic supplies of raw material.

"However, we will discuss the issue (of opposition to mining in the Niyamgiri hills) with the state administration soon," he added.

Vedanta’s alumina plant was re-opened this week after being shut for nearly seven months; it is now securing ore from the neighbouring states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh to run the plant.

The plant, which is supposed to supply around 150 million tonnes of bauxite during a 25-year period, is currently running at only 60% capacity.

Vedanta, which is owned by Indian businessman Anil Agarwal, operates the alumina refinery and aluminium smelter, along with a captive power plant in Odisha.

Image: India is one of the largest producers of bauxite in the world. Photo courtesy of Werner Schellmann.

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