State’s silence over Centre’s directive triggers speculation

Uncertainty over cancellation of leases for bauxite mining in Visakhapatnam and the adjoining areas in the highly fragile ecosystem of Eastern Ghats continues with the State government observing stoic silence over the issue.

The silence, despite a specific directive by Union Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo vide letter dated September 27, 2012, to the AP Government to cancel the leases invoking the provisions of Clause 3 of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution and report compliance to him, has led to speculation in certain circles that the government is not keen on scrapping the deals.

The agreements were signed with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited, Anrak Aluminium Limited, and National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) during 2005-10. The government, in the MoUs, had promised to supply the mineral through the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC). Before Mr. Deo’s directive, the then Minister for Mining, B.K. Handique, issued orders in August 2010 putting on hold all the clearances issued for bauxite mining in the scheduled areas till the concerns on livelihood and threat to ecology were addressed.

The three companies, as per MoUs, had proposed to invest around Rs.25,000 crore on alumina refinery, smelter, and other facilities. Anrak, a joint venture of Penna Cements and Ras Al-Khaiamah Investment Authority (RAKIA), which has not got environmental clearance to get bauxite from Sapparla and other mines through APMDC, has completed construction of its refinery in Makavarapalem mandal, about 100 km from here.

“As of now, the State seems to be glossing over the directive by Mr. Deo to comply by cancelling the deals. So far, there is no response, which makes us believe that the government’s delay is driven by pressure from the mining lobby,” Samata executive director Rebbapragda Ravi told The Hindu .

After Samata filed a PIL against calcite mining near Borra Caves by Birla Periclase for its seawater magnesium plant near Bhimunipatnam, the Supreme Court in 1997 gave a landmark judgment on mining in the Fifth Schedule areas.

Mr. Deo, whose Araku Lok Sabha constituency has several bauxite reserves, in a letter to Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan dated April 7 had asked him to invoke special powers vested with him to invoke 244 (i) of the Constitution and cancel the mining leases.