Continuing its frenzied efforts to secure alternate bauxite supplies, Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL) has urged the Odisha government to fast track its applications for three small laterite deposits in Koraput district for mining lease by the end of this month. VAL’s urgency to secure alternate raw material supplies stems from the recent blow to bauxite mining atop the ecologically fragile Niyamgiri hills by the Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF). The company was running its one million tonne refinery at Lanjigarh by sourcing bauxite from states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. “Three laterite applications of ours have been recommended by the Koraput collector to the Director, mines department. These proposals may be fast tracked for mining lease (ML) by January 2014,” S K Roongta, managing director, VAL wrote to the state chief secretary J K Mohapatra. In November last year, the state government had assured Vedanta that it would take all steps to ensure that ML could be granted in the next two months for small and laterite mines which could serve as a short-term breather for its refinery. “To begin with, the small deposit of Majhingamal (Sarambai) may be urgently recommended to the Government of India for grant of ML,” Roongta said in the letter. VAL had also filed 33 applications for alternative bauxite mines currently pending at different stages of approvals. These included Karlapat (south), Sasbahumali, Gandhamardhan and Ghusramali to name a few. The state government had written to the Centre, seeking reservation of Karlapat bauxite mines with deposits of 207 million tonne for its PSU, Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), with the objective to supply bauxite from this deposit to Vedanta’s beleaguered Lanjigarh refinery. The government is sitting over the grant of mining lease (ML) to global engineering giant L&T that had won prospecting licence (PL) over the twin bauxite deposits at Sijimali and Kutrumali with reserves of close to 300 million tonne.
This is despite a legal opinion in favour of L&T by the government’s Supreme Court counsel Uday U Lalit on July 24 this year. The counsel had also clarified that long-term supplies to Vedanta’s refinery from the two bauxite deposits is legally permissible. Meanwhile, Vedanta has reiterated its request to allow the use of 600 Mw power from its 2,400 Mw coal-based power station at Bhurkhamunda near Jharsuguda for running its aluminium smelter. VAL’s 1.25 million tonne per annum (mtpa) aluminium smelter set up as a sector specific Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Jharsuguda is lying idle presently for want of power. “We are providing 600 Mw to Gridco for the last three years. The power was supplied when Odisha needed it the most. Since Odisha is now a power surplus state, we may be allowed to use this power for running the new smelter plant to full capacity. This will generate substantial employment opportunities and additional revenues for the state government,” the letter stated.