24 Jan 2011
By G Rajasekaran
Express Buzz News
SALEM: Clinching facts about the illegitimacy of Vedantas continued bauxite mining activity in Yercaud even after closing down its aluminum plant in Mettur and consequent loss to the government was reported in a report released by a fact-finding team of the Social Research, and Legal Advocacy Society here on Sunday.
According to the report, the continued mining and post-mining activities/marketing by MALCO contravenes the original intention for which rights were given to it. With the closure of its aluminum unit in Mettur, the continued mining and post-mining operations are deemed to be illegal, the report charges.
MALCO closed its aluminum production unit in Mettur in 2009, following a Madras High Court directive to stop illegal mining in Kolli Hills (Namakkal District). Another reason for the closure was the companys huge overdue of `310 crore bills to be settled to the TNEB during the years 1995 and 1999. Dependence on its newly installed captive power generation proved unviable. Mining in Yercaud too was stopped.
However, the Tamil Nadu government has given Madras Aluminium Company Ltd (MALCO) fresh permit to mine low grade bauxite in Yercaud from February last year and mining was resumed in Yercaud. The company claims that it has found new customers in the cement industry to buy low-grade bauxite and waste dumps to parties in Kerala. Bauxite from Yercaud has been taken for Vedanta’s aluminum refinery in Lanjigarh in Orissa when the proposed mining project in Niyamagiri was delayed.
Questioning the propriety of allowing this, activists point out that before Vedanta took over MALCO in 1996, the selling rights for the bauxite mined from Yercaud rested with State-government owned Tamil Nadu Magnesite Ltd. According to the agreement, TANMAG would transfer 15 per cent of the profit it makes to the State government. However, after taking over MALCO in 1996 Vedanta went for aggressive mining in Yercaud in 1998.
Under the pretext of increasing production of aluminum at Mettur unit, Vedanta convinced the government that it would consume all the bauxite it mined in Yercaud. Therefore the government withdrew the selling rights given to TANMAG.
The right given to Vedanta’s MALCO is hence no more valid, activists point out.
Besides, gross violations of the clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, there are violations of norms of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the highways.
The recommendations of the report include immediate ban on all activities of MALCO in Yercaud, constituting a committee to assess environmental damages, compensating locals and penalising Vedanta.