BHUBANESWAR/NEW DELHI – Odisha is seeking to revive a controversial plan to mine for bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills, a lushly forested area that the Dongria Kondh tribe considers sacred, a minister said on Wednesday.
The proposal, which sparked an angry response from green groups, comes nearly two years after local residents successfully blocked a request by London-listed Vedanta Resources (VED.L) to mine in the area.
“We want the revival of this mining project because some local peoples’ representatives have told us (to do so),” Odisha’s steel and mines minister, Prafulla Kumar Mallik, told Reuters.
“Besides, it’s required to ensure long-term bauxite supply to the struggling aluminium industry including Vedanta.”
Vedanta Ltd (VDAN.NS), controlled by metals mogul Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources, has set up a big alumina plant in Odisha betting on bauxite supplies from Niyamgiri.
But residents of all the 12 villages, whose opinion the state sought for a court order in 2013, unanimously voted against allowing mining there.
The company has been forced to cut jobs and output at the 1 million tonne-a-year alumina refinery due to a shortage of the raw material bauxite and weak world prices.
Mallik said he hoped locals would not oppose the plans this time, as instead of a private company, the proposals for state-run Odisha Mining Corp to extract minerals from Niyamgiri.
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