Madras HC closes plea against MALCO

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Chennai, Nov 21: Madras High Court directed the authorities concerned to dispose of to MALCO Ltd Company's pending applications for clearance to mine in Kolli Hills.

MALCO Ltd,a subsidiary of the UK-based Vedanta Resources has given an undertaking before a Division Bench of High Court on Wednesday, Nov 20, comprising Justices P K Misra and A Kulasekaran that it would not mine 'Bauxite' in Kolli Hills in western Tamil Nadu until it gets necessary clearance and permission for mining.

When a writ petition seeking to stop the company from carrying on with such mining activities without necessary statutory consent and approvals under various laws came up before the Bench, the Counsel for MALCO gave an undertaking with respect to its bauxite mine.

In the petition, the head of a voluntary organisation ''Speak Out Salem'', Piyush Sethia, submitted that the company had been operating its bauxite mines in Kolli Hills, known for its shola forest in the Eastern Ghats, in Namakkal district, even though its mining lease had expired long ago.

Also the 'consent to operate' from the state Pollution Control Board under the Water Act and Air Act had expired in 2002, the petitioner submitted.

The petitioner also contended that it had not obtained clearances from the Hill Area Conservation Authority or the Environment and Forests ministry.

However, MALCO continued its mining activities without formal clearance, making use of Rule 24 A of Mineral Concession rules, 1960, which provide that when an application for renewal of lease is made within a year before the lease period expires, the applicant can continue to mine, pending consideration of the application.

''The Hills are known for abundance of medicinal plants and as ecologically sensitive and significant. They are rich in biodiversity and an area of traditional habitat of a tribal community,'' the petitioner also submitted.

The petition stated that the mining operations were flattening hilltops and creating valleys overnight. They were also causing irreversible damage to the ecology and biodiversity of the Kolli Hills.

The petitioner sought an order restraining the company from continuing its operations.

In view of the undertaking given by MALCO, the Bench closed the writ petition.

UNI

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