The federal government has suspended operations of global mining giant Vedanta Resources in Goa, following protests from villagers.
On May 17, the government suspended the statutory mining clearances granted to Sesa Goa mines, a firm owned by Vedanta group, to set up an iron ore project at Pirna and Nadora, two villages in Goa’s northern region.
The federal Ministry of Environment and Forests cleared the project on June 9, 2009, but a local group challenged the order saying the project threatens to destroy their environment and livelihoods.
The project was granted environmental clearance in June last year, but was challenged by a local group, Pirna Naroda Nagrik Kruti Samiti (PNNS). It argued that all villagers who attended a mandatory public hearing on the project opposed it.
The National Environment Appellate Authority, the federal authority to address environment clearances issues in certain restricted areas, reportedly wrote to the company May 17 asking it to suspend the project.
The Church of England, which has a £2.5m (US$3.6 million) share in the Vedanta group had withdrawn its stake following controversies in its unethical mining resorted by the company in Orissa.
“Yet an expert appraisal committee decided to overlook the opposition and recommended environmental clearance. The committee did not even bother to look at the minutes of the public hearing that opposed the mining,” said leading anti-mining activist Sebastian Rodrigues.
Rodrigues said the expert committee at the time was headed by one M.L. Majumdar, who himself was on the board of four mining companies and therefore the decision was biased.
The federal authority reportedly asked to suspend the project until a committee visits the area and examine the reasons of local opposition and the project’s impact on agriculture, health and environment.