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Illegal mining in Kolli Hills stayed

Express News Service
21 Nov 2008

CHENNAI/SALEM: The Madras High Court, on Thursday, issued a stay on bauxite mining by MALCO Ltd in Kolli Hills, acting on a petition filed by Piyush Sethia of the voluntary organisation 'Speak Out Salem'.

Advocate V Nagasaila, appearing for the petitioners, pleaded that the company’s mining lease expired in 1998 and its Consent to operate issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board expired in 2002. Also, its mines do not have permission from the Hill Area Conservation Authority, environmental or forest clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

MALCO LTD, which is a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources, gave an undertaking to the Madras High Court that it will stop the illegal mining in Kolli Hills with immediate effect. Kolli Hills is a highly bio-diverse region, known for its medicinal plants and water resources.

"Going by bauxite production figures declared by Vedanta in its 2008 annual report, the company is estimated to have removed more than 3 million tonnes of bauxite from the Kolli Hills despite having no permission to do so since 2002.

The company has also created a mountain of toxic 'red mud' - a highly caustic by-product of smelting - on the banks of the Stanley Reservoir on River Cauvery," environmental activists charged.

They added that based on the information obtained through Right to Information Act, the company’s new thermal plant was constructed near Mettur without Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's permission and also the Board admitted coal yard in Mettur Railway was operating without licence.

quot;Operating without a licence from the TNPCB seems to have become a norm in state. The Board is either unwilling to or incapable of punishing big sharks. MALCO was literally allowed to plunder the Hills.

They mined and transported at least 200 loads of ore a day", said Sethia.

The environmental impact and its repercussions for the tribals were scientifically analysed and presented to the court.

The punishment for the violations of the Environmental Protection Act, Air Act and Water Act would be a maximum of five years jail sentence.

The Environmental Protection Act also empowers citizens to prosecute company officials if the statutory authorities - the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board - fail to do so. "We will initiate citizen prosecution against MALCO’s management, including Board chairman Navin Agarwal," said Sethia.

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