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Diversified metals & mining conglomerate Vedanta Ltd is aiming at zero alumina imports by 2020. By then, the company is looking to reach its full nameplate capacity of six million tonnes per annum (mtpa) at its Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Odisha.
The Lanjigarh refinery's present de-bottlenecked capacity is 1.7-2 mtpa. Vedanta's ramp up to six mtpa is subject to approvals by the Odisha government and clearances from the Union ministry of environment, forest & climate change (MoEF&CC).
"We feel we should be able to reach our full design capacity at Lanjigarh by 2020. Once the refinery produces six million tonnes of alumina each year, the whole of it would be converted into aluminium. By 2020, Vedanta's aluminium production capacity is expected to reach three mtpa. All our aluminium smelters would run on our own alumina supplies and we are looking at zero alumina imports after the Lanjigarh unit runs at full capacity", said a senior executive with Vedanta Ltd.
Vedanta is currently importing around one million tonnes of alumina annually because of capacity constraints in producing the intermediate product.
Buoyant LME prices is driving Vedanta to higher aluminium production. Aluminium has continued its bull run with global prices on the London Metal Exchange (LME) rising by 23 per cent to $1961 per tonne in April-September compared with $1596 in the corresponding period of FY17.
Environment and supply side restrictions in China coupled with higher input costs and strong industrial activities supported LME prices.
Vedanta hopes to exit FY18 with aluminium production of 1.6 million tonnes, making it the highest domestic producer, upstaging the combined output by Aditya Birla Group owned entities.
Amid a strong forecast for aluminium prices, Vedanta intends to strengthen its back end alumina supplies and cater fully to its aluminium output. Despite no local bauxite supplies in sight, Vedanta is still keen to run the Lanjigarh refinery at full capacity even on imported supplies.
"What we are looking at is securing sufficient bauxite availability for the Lanjigarh refinery. We are looking at participating in resource auctions and also exploring tie-ups with state run OMC (Odisha Mining Corporation). Cash flow and profitability from aluminium business would help us offset higher bauxite sourcing costs. We are not selling alumina and hence there is no question of any commercial loss on alumina business", the official said.
Bauxite imports by Vedanta from abroad have tapered to 23 per cent of its total requirement during April-September this year compared with 52 per cent in the year ago period. Captive mines by group company BALCO in Chhattisgarh is meeting 32 per cent of the bauxite requirement while domestic sourcing caters to 45 per cent of the raw material need.
Vedanta has committed Rs 6483 crore investment to expand Lanjigarh's alumina capacity to six mtpa and raise capacity of its co-generation CPP (captive power plant) from 90 Mw to 340 Mw. The company proposes to finance 75 per cent of the expansion cost through bank loans and contribute 25 per cent as the equity component. Vedanta has asked for 1645.8 acres of additional private land from the Odisha government to complete expansion.
To run the alumina refinery at the full rated capacity of six mtpa, Vedanta needs 18 million tonnes of bauxite annually. The company expects to achieve the expansion in 27 months from zero date.