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Utkal Alumina refinery goes on stream after 21-year delay

Hrusikesh Mohanty  |  Kolkata/ Berhampur 

After struggling hard for over two decades, Utkal Alumina International Limited (UAIL), a subsidiary of Hindalco Industries, has finally started trial production from its 1.5 million tonne alumina refinery at Doragurah, near Kasipur in Odisha's Rayagada district.

During trial production, the plant is operating at only 10 to 15 percent of its capacity and after the stabilisation process, it will attain full capacity over next six months, said a senior officer of the company.

The Rs 7,000 crore refinery project has a 90 Mw co-generation thermal power plant and a captive mine with capacity to produce 4.2 million tonne of bauxite per annum at Baphilimali-spreading over Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, about 17-km from the plant site.

As the company is yet to start the mining operation, it has procured some raw material from its mines in Madhya Pradesh to meet the requirement during trial operation. "Raw material is not a problem for us. We have stocked around 20,000 metric tonnes of bauxite," he said.

The starting of trial production by UAIL is an important milestone for this Aditya Birla Group company, which has been hanging fire for last 21 years due to protracted protests by the environmentalists and project affected people.

Utkal Alumina refinery was conceived in 1992 to tap the huge deposit of bauxite in the area and produce alumina.

Worried over the delay in implementation of the project, the two original joint venture partners; Tata and Norsk Hydro, had pulled out of the project earlier, while another foreign partner, Alcan, had sold its stake in 2007.

The company proposed to send the alumina produced at this refinery to two of its sister units- a smelter plant at Lapanga in Odisha and Mahana Aluminium Project in Madhya Pradesh, being put up by Hindalco Industries.

The alumina is now being stocked up near the plant site. This will be transported to the Lapanga plant after completion of the railway track, he said. The railway work is going on in full swing and it would take about one more month to complete the work, he added.

Meanwhile, the people of around 20 villages near the plant have opposed the utilization of water from river Gada by the plant. They said, at least 200 villages in the downstream of the river would face water scarcity for irrigation and other purpose, if the plant draws excess water from the river. They have submitted a memorandum to Rayagada collector, Sashi Bhusan Padhi for the intervention of district administration.

Company officials, however, refuted the allegation. "We require only 1,000 cubic meter of water per hour. The quantity is very negligible and we are not drawing excess water from the river," the company official said.

First Published: Fri, June 07 2013. 20:05 IST