In a significant judgment today, the Forest Bench of the Supreme Court presided by the Chief Justice of India, denied approval to the Vedanta Alumina Ltd. for mining Bauxite in Niyamgiri forest land in Orissa.
Justice Kapadia who read out the Order stated clearly that due to some recent reports doubting the credibility of Vedanta Resources PLC, the court cannot hand over ‘national assets to a company’ where Vedanta Resources has a 94% stake.
Curiously enough and much to our dismay, the Bench perhaps went beyond their mandate and brought in Sterlite Industries India Ltd. (where Vedanta Resources PLC hold an 80% stake) to the picture and suggested that the application for mining approval can be considered by the Bench if a Special Purpose Vehicle is constituted by the Government of Orissa, Orissa Mining Corporation with Sterlite. There are other conditions attached to that including payment for NPV (Net Present Value), wildlife management plan, tribal development, local employment opportunities etc. Many of these conditions have to be approved and monitored by the Central Empowered Committee.
While we appreciate the concern of the Court in taking the mining rights away from Vedanta Resources PLC, which is not even listed in India, we are at a loss to understand how the same can be considered for Sterlite even through an SPV. Also the Sterlite Industries are known for severe and several violations in the projects they have undertaken so far, including the Tuticorin Copper Smelter.
Though for the time being Vedanta is out, the verdict is still not against Bauxite mining in Niyamgiri. The long struggle for justice of the Dongria Kondhs of Niyamgiri continues.
On Behalf of Delhi Solidarity Group and Kashipur Solidarity Group