11 of its source mines did not have a valid clearance

One week after Vedanta Aluminium's application to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri Hills of Orissa was rejected, its refinery expansion project has been slapped with a show-cause notice by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The company was taken to task for allegedly going ahead with a six-fold expansion of its refinery in Lanjigarh even as the Ministry was still appraising the project for clearance. In letters to the company sent on Tuesday, the Ministry asked why the Vedanta's existing one million tonne per annum refinery should not be shut down, and its 2004 clearance revoked.

The Ministry also pointed out that the clearance was granted on the condition that the refinery would source bauxite only from mines which had already been given clearances as well. However, the N.C. Saxena Committee, set up to investigate the project, found that at least 11 of the source mines did not have a valid clearance.

The company also illegally grabbed village forest land for its project, the committee said.

Bhubaneswar Special Correspondent reports:

Tension prevailed in Lanjigarh town on Wednesday following retrenchment of about 3,000 workers in the alumina refinery of VedantaAluminium Limited.

Trouble started on Tuesday when the workers were retrenched on verbal orders by Larsen & Toubro, the contractor company engaged by Vedanta for construction work.

The workers, who allegedly damaged the property of Vedanta in protest, were attacked by unidentified persons on Tuesday night.

The workers alleged that those who attacked them included many employees of Vedanta, a charge the company denied. According to sources, about 70 protesting workers were taken into custody by the police.

The incident comes close on the heels of the order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests denying clearances to Vedanta for mining in the Niyamgiri hills to extract bauxite for use in its refinery.

Meanwhile, the ruling Biju Janata Dal is set to to hold a rally at Lanjigarh on Friday in protest of Centre's orders, stalling implementation of various industrial projects.