A major public hearing seeking environmental clearance for bauxite mining by Vedanta Limited in Shijimali in Odisha’s Rayagada district was held on October 16, with a majority of villages expressing concerns over the possible negative impact of mining on the local ecosystem. It ended with.
The hearing was held under tight security at Trinath Dev High School in Sungar near Kashipur in Rayagada. The hearing was highly controversial as villagers alleged police brutality and attempts to steer them away from mineral deposits that would be favorable for mining.
“The public hearing on environmental cleanup has been completed. We have recorded the people’s statements and videotaped the event. The recording and video clip will ultimately be submitted to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for necessary action. We plan to do so,” Rayagada District Collector Swadha Deb Singh said over phone.
The Vedanta Group had come up with a plan to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills through the public sector Odisha Mining Corporation after it was rejected by the people for 12 gram sabhas in 2013, but now it has decided to make a new bid. faced hurdles. The 12 Gram Sabha verdict in 2013 was called India’s first environmental referendum.
Vedanta, India’s largest aluminum producer, has proposed to extract 9 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) from the Shijimali bauxite block spread over 1549.022 hectares in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. In Shijimari, 311 million tons of bauxite deposits have been identified. The company had proposed an investment of Rs 792 million for the project.
The proposed Shijimali bauxite mine is considered a key asset for Vedanta’s expansion plans in the aluminum sector. The company has been operating a 2 MTPA alumina refining plant at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district since 2007 without having its own bauxite mine. The company proposes to increase its refining capacity to 6 million tons. For many years now, the Lanjigarh refinery has been supplied with mostly imported bauxite. Subsequently, the company successfully secured long-term supply from Odisha Mining Corporation’s Kodingamali bauxite mine in Koraput district.
The company said in its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report that the mine will generate 600 direct jobs and contribute Rs 2,511.6 million annually to the state and central government exchequer in mine revenue.
Vedanta informed that there are 21 protected forests and nine water bodies within a 10km radius of the bauxite mining site. “The existence of the nine streams in the Shijimari Hills mentioned in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report is grossly underestimated. Due to mining, first all the rivers will disappear and then the Nagabari river will disappear,” said Karthika Nayak, a resident of Bhontej village.
Prominent environmental activist Prafulla Samanthara said, “The administration handled the hearing in a questionable manner. Hundreds of people were waiting outside the venue to speak their minds.” I felt overwhelming resistance to the project. The hearing was adjourned within two hours.
Rayagada District Collector said the public hearing concluded without any violence as people gathered at the venue and freely expressed their suggestions and objections. “No further public hearings will be held for environmental cleanup. However, if we are asked to hold another public hearing, we will hold it again,” Singh said. The second public hearing for environmental clearance for Shijimari will be held in Kalahandi district on October 18.