Vedanta may spurn MoEF offer on Orissa project

Fed up with the delays and obstructions, the Vedanta Group has apparently decided not to apply again for environmental clearances to expand its aluminium refinery project in Orissa's Kalahandi district, despite being encouraged to do so by the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

On Wednesday, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said that he was willing to revive Vedanta Resources' plans to expand its alumina refinery provided it met certain conditions. But Vedanta reportedly prefers to ignore his offer and instead pursue its case through the courts.

The linked bauxite mining project for the expansion of the aluminium plant was disallowed by the ministry last year after a damaging report by a committee it appointed, headed by N C Saxena.

The committee found several illegalities with the refinery project at Lanjigarh, too. It had said Vedanta was in illegal possession of 26 hectares of forest land and was in expansion mode even before getting any sort of clearance from the ministry.

Accordingly, Ramesh's ministry had scrapped the proposal for six-fold expansion of the refinery from a million tonnes per annum to 6 mtpa. The environment ministry has now asked Vedanta to re-apply for expansion of the refinery, while it maintains a firm 'no' on mining the Niyamgiri Hills for bauxite.

According to the Hindustan Times, high-level sources in Vedanta said the company would not file again. ''Fresh applications are filed for a greenfield (new) project. This is an expansion project. About 60 per cent work is already complete. We will not make any fresh applications. We will also not drop the court challenge and pursue it,'' a company official said.