The State Government’s talk of reviving bauxite mining in the Scheduled Areas of the State has kicked up a controversy. Tribal activists are on the warpath against the move to resume bauxite mining under the aegis of the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC), Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) and DWCRA groups.
The Agency tracts of Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts are estimated to have 1,000 million tonnes of bauxite reserves. The government has prospected the Araku and Chintapalle hill ranges and estimated them to harbour about 570 million tonnes of the aluminium ore.
The undivided Andhra Pradesh government had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Jindal South West Aluminium Limited and Anrak Aluminium Limited, a company floated by the Ras al Khaimah Investment Authority and Penna Group for supply of raw material through APMDC.
The Jindal and Anrak are envisaging an investment of nearly Rs.20,000 crore to set up aluminium complexes comprising an alumina refinery, smelter plants and power plants. Former Union tribal welfare minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo told The Hindu on Saturday that there was nothing surprising in these moves: the TDP government in the State and the BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre are hand-in-glove to undertake bauxite mining in flagrant violation of constitutional guarantees given to tribals in the Scheduled Areas, he said.
Mr. Deo, who stalled bauxite mining during the UPA regime, said as per the Panchayat Extension in Scheduled Areas Act and the Forest Rights Act (FRA), tribal people are the natural owners of minerals available in reserve forests. “APMDC has no right to either take up mining on its own or through other agencies. It is registered under the Companies Act and majority stake in the corporation might go to private hands anytime,” he stated.
If bauxite mining has to be explored, resolutions in each tribal village are mandatory as per PESA Act.