In 1976, attracted by a rich deposit of 213 million tonnes of bauxite under a laterite soil cover of 3-4 metres in the Gandamardan hills, BALCO applied to the department of mining and geology, Orissa, for a lease of 3,584 ha. In 1981, it got permission to mine over 36 sq km.
With an original investment plan of Rs 31.2 crore, BALCO began work. The initial protest was sparked by outrage related to shrine damage by blasting and the theft of the original Nrusinghanath idol. Once road construction, clearing the hill top for mining and ropeway work began, more than one lakh trees were felled. Streams got silted; the water turned muddy. Observing these, people began to doubt BALCO