India to Hold Village Meet in August for Mahan Coal Mine Consent

Hindalco Industries Ltd. and Essar Energy Plc’s plan to mine coal in Mahan in central India will be put to vote before villagers in the third week of this month.

The administration of Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh state, where the joint venture Mahan Coal Ltd. has built a $3.8 billion aluminum smelter and power plants, will hold a meeting with as many as 2,200 villagers on any day from Aug. 16 to Aug. 22, the region’s chief administrator M. Selvendran said.

“The process for seeking fresh approval is at a very advanced stage,” he said. “Once a date is frozen the same shall be advertised in national media and announcements will also be made in the project-affected village.”

This is the second meeting after the first, held last year, was marred by controversy following allegations by the former Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo in February that the companies used strong-arm tactics and forged signatures of local villagers to win agreement to begin mining. Ramakant Tiwari, chief executive officer of Mahan Coal, denied the minister’s claims.

Hindalco, controlled by billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla, and Essar Energy, run by billionaire brothers Shashi and Ravikant Ruia, need the coal to cut costs.

Separately, Mahan Coal’s mining lease approval by the federal environment ministry in February has been challenged in the nation’s National Green Tribunal by Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, a group that opposes mining in the region. Forest norms were not followed while allowing diversion of land for mining, according to the petition filed by group in May.

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