As reported by Rajnish Sharma and Ketki Angre on on 1 February 2008: Row over mining company's clearance report

Row over mining company's clearance report

A bauxite mine in Maharashtra lifted the environmental impact report of a mine set up in Northern Russia to get a favourable environmental report.

On the face of it, it's just another mine leased to one of the country's leading mineral exporters - the multi-crore public limited company Ashapura Minechem Ltd. Nothing unusual about it except that the clearance given for this mine is now at the centre of a brewing controversy.

An RTI query has revealed that the company's consultant allegedly plagiarised portions of the mandatory environment impact assessment report from a Russian document for a mine in Komi Republic.

The report says the vegetation here is a mix of spruce and birch. Let alone birch, but any student of elementary geography will tell you that such vegetation is only found in extremely cold weather conditions like in Alaska or Siberia.

What the report does not say is that this area is home to large-scale mango plantations and an ecologically sensitive zone.

Russian connection

The mineralisation of the rivers Vorykva in Russia and Barja in Maharashtra's Ratnagiri district are the same, down to the last decimal point.

The report also mentions that 13 species of birds are protected under the Red Book, a listing that has no legal status in India.

''This is not just about one company. But also raises questions about the MoEF, which should actually be acting as a regulator. they are in such a hurry to sanction reports...while they used to sanction 150-200 a year now its over 800 which means 4-5 projects are being sanctioned a day,'' said Ritwick Dutta, Advocate, Lawyers' Initiative for Forest & Environment.

NDTV traced the consultant, Pune's Yogiraja Industrial Consultant to this building in Pune. He denied that the report was plagiarised while and said he is being maligned by vested interests.

The company, Ashapura Minechem Ltd refused to comment on camera but said that they had changed their consultant and hence the question of plagiarising the report did not arise.

Curiously though, a Ministry of Environment and Forests document shows it's this very report that has got the company the clearance for its mining operations in Ratnagiri, raising serious doubts about the ministry's integrity while sanctioning major projects.