The Supreme Court on Tuesday posted for January 2012 final hearing on an application and related petitions from the Orissa Mining Corporation challenging a July 11 order withdrawing environmental clearance for a bauxite project.

A Bench of justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik posted the matter for final hearing after taking into consideration the submissions of senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the OMC, that the petitions be adjudicated expeditiously as the company was withholding the amount to be invested for the development of tribal areas in view of the uncertainty regarding the project.

He submitted that it had been planned to build schools and dispensaries in the tribal areas around the mining site with the funds provided by the company.

The OMC, in its application, contended that the order passed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests was illegal, arbitrary and in violation of the court's earlier directions that gave a green signal to the project.

The MoEF, however, justified its decision to withdraw the clearance granted for the $1.7 billion bauxite mining project, citing violation of various forest and environmental laws.

It said its earlier order, dated April 28, 2009, was issued subject to effective implementation of various conditions and environmental safeguards which, inter-alia, mentioned that “environmental clearance is subject to grant of forestry clearance. Necessary forestry clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for diversion of 672.018 hectares of forestland involved in the project shall be obtained before starting mining operation in that area. No mining shall be undertaken in the forest area without obtaining requisite prior forestry clearance.”

It said: “Since, the stage-II forestry clearance for the forestland involved in the project has already been rejected by the Ministry on August 30, 2010, the environment clearance granted automatically becomes infructuous and inoperable. The Ministry of Environment and Forests had therefore, withdrawn the environment clearance granted to the said project.”