The Orissa government today approached the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s decision to reject environmental clearance to Vedanta bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills.

Challenging the Environment Ministry’s order of August 24, 2010, the State government filed an application through Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), contending that the Centre’s decision was in violation of the Supreme Court’s previous order giving a green signal to the project.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for OMC, contended that the order was illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the apex court’s direction.

A bench headed by Justice R.V. Raveendran agreed to hear the plea and also suggested that the State government and the mining corporation may file a contempt petition against the Centre if they thought that the Supreme Court’s order had been violated.

In a major setback to the UK-based Vedanta group, the Centre had on August 24 last year rejected the environmental clearance to its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project proposed in Orissa.

The Centre had rejected the clearance citing various violation of forest and environmental laws and had withdrawn its in-principle approval given to the project in 2007 by the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

While turning down the clearance, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said, “There has been a very serious violation of Environment Protection Act, Forest Conservation and Rights Acts by the Orissa Government” as also violation of norms by the company.

The Centre had said just because the ministry had given an in-principle approval to the project in 2007, it could not be treated as fait accompli.

The ministry had refused the stage II forest clearance to the State-owned OMC and Sterlite Bauxite mining project in the Niyamgiri Hills area in Lanjigarh, Kalahandi and Rayagadha districts, while accepting the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) recommendation for withdrawal of the forest and environment clearance.

It had also accused Vedanta of having committed several irregularities after the Supreme Court had given a favourable judgement to the project for mining in August 2008.