There is no respite for the Vedanta Group, as the Supreme Court rejected its claims over the Niyamgiri Hills, ruling that only Gram Sabha will hold the power to decide whether to allow mining in that area or not. The apex court asked the Odisha Government to share the mining proposal with the Gram Sabha.
The Gram Sabha has been given three months to decide on this issue and submit its report to the Union Environment Ministry. A representative appointed by the Orissa High Court will be present in the Gram Sabha meetings that would decide the fate of Vedanta.
Last year, then Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh had refused environmental clearance to Vedanta’s bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills. However, the Odisha Government and Vedanta had challenged the order in Supreme Court. The verdict is seen as a huge victory for the people (Dongria Kandh tribe) in Niyamgiri Hills, while it came as a major blow to the Odisha Government and Vedanta Group.
It could be recalled that in 2010, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had made a visit to Lanjigarh and held a massive rally there. He had opposed mining in Niyamgiri Hills. Few months later, the Ministry of Environment and Forests cancelled the clearance given to Vedanta for mining. The project was cancelled after the Centre took note of the environmental threats associated with it and the endangering of Dongria Kondh tribe. Vedanta and the Odisha Mining Co-operation (OMC) had taken the mines on lease.
Since the ban on mining in Niyamgiri Hills will continue till the Gram Sabha takes a final decision, it would be interesting to see what the Vedanta and OMC do to convince the local people or they would take a final retreat from this project forever.