Government probing Vedanta, Posco for flouting rules

New Delhi, Aug 2 (IANS) The government Monday said it is investigating violations of the Forest Rights Act and environmental norms by mining company Vedanta Resources and steel-maker Posco in Orissa and would take a decision on the two projects once it gets the report.

‘Any violation of the Forest Act will not be spared,’ Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh told the Rajya Sabha.

‘Once I receive the report from the experts, I will take a final decision,’ he added.

A panel is investigating use of forest land and the potential effect of mining on tribes and wildlife in Orissa. It would offer findings within 30 days.

Vedanta is battling criticism from environmental groups and some shareholders over plans to extract bauxite in Niyamgiri hills in the state’s Kalahandi district.

Posco is alleged to have violated the forest act while acquiring land for a steel project near Paradip in the state.

‘Vedanta is under investigation as it has violated environment ministry norms, a four member expert group is in the state (Orissa) to look into the violations,’ Ramesh said.

‘The second company which has been reported to have violated the rules is Posco. It is also being looked into,’ Ramesh said.

The minister was first reluctant to name the two companies. ‘I don’t want to name the companies, members know who they are,’ Ramesh said.

However, following persistent demand from all corners of the House to disclose the companies involved, the minister named the two companies.

Replying to supplementaries to a question on illegal mining, Ramesh voiced grave concern over illegal mining of minor minerals like sand and stones.

He mentioned the recent murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa in Gujarat and said while the centre is responsible for checking illegal mining of major minerals, minor minerals remain a responsibility of the state.

‘An RTI activist was killed because he was raising the issue of minor minerals. It is very important issue,’ he said.

Jethwa was killed on July 20 in Ahmedabad barely a fortnight after he filed a PIL in the Gujarat High Court seeking an end to illegal limestone mining along the Gir wildlife sanctuary.

Ramesh said the issue of stopping mining of minor minerals is complicated as it has huge economic implications.

‘When ever I have raised the issue with chief ministers, a strong opposition has come because of the huge employment it generates. Many MPs approached me as well to allow mining of minor minerals. We cant be oblivious to the economic concerns,’ he added.

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