India’s state-run mining firm Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has resurrected its attempt to conduct bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri Hills area. OMC tried previously to open mines in the area in 2013, but its attempts were foiled by local tribes.
According to local media, OMC has permission from the state government to file for a permit with the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
“We have allowed OMC to approach the NGT on Niyamgiri bauxite mining,” a senior government official told local media. “But before approaching the tribunal, OMC has to seek approval from the sub-divisional committees in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts where the gram sabhas in 12 villages had voted against the mining plan.”
OMC approached the Supreme Court earlier this year to obtain permission to approach gram sabhas (local councils), but the court rebuffed their claim. In May a second court declined to hear the case, instead directing them to approach other appropriate forums to argue against the decisions made by village councils made in 2013.
OMC argued on appeal that the Forest Rights Act does not mandate approval from village councils for use of forest lands if the government has already found that the local population’s rights have already been protected. The state’s attorney argued in response that the village councils did not follow the prior court’s directive to take into account cultural and religious rights of the tribes in the area.
A dozen councils were held in 2013, and all twelve councils voted against mining in the area, claiming cultural and religious rights in the Niyamgiri area. The councils had a significant impact upon Vedanta Resources’ alumina refinery at the base of the hills, as the firm’s access to bauxite from the area would have made it competitive on a global market. As the decision went against Vedanta, the company was left to import bauxite from more remote domestic and overseas sources.