The Orissa government today termed as “unfortunate” the Centre’s decision to reject environment clearance to Vedanta’s $ 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Kalahandi district.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the Central government has rejected environment clearance to the bauxite mining project for Vedanta,” Orissa’s Industries and Steel and Mines Minister Raghuanth Mohanty told reporters.

“Having given in-principle environment clearance to the project long ago, the Union Environment and Forest Ministry has now all of a sudden announced its decision to reject the Stage-II clearance in an improper and inappropriate manner,” he said.

After in-principle clearance was accorded for the bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri in Lanjigarh area, considerable progress was made in the work of Vedanta Aluminium Limited which also took steps to augment the capacity of its refinery at Lanjigarh, Mr. Mohanty said.

The capacity was sought to be raised from 1 million tonne to six million tonne as part of ambitious plans of Vedanta, official sources said, adding Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd, an arm of Vedanta group, has also deposited Rs. 20 crore as its contribution for scheduled area development of Lanjigarh project in a special account.

Senior Congress leader and former union minister Bhakta Charan Das, however, welcomed the Centre’s decision saying it was a victory of the struggle of tribals in Niyamgiri area.