New Delhi, Nov 29
Anil Agarwal, chairman of the London-based Vedanta Resources Plc (VED) says he regrets his decision to go for the Rs 50,000 crore ($8 billion) Odisha aluminium project instead of acquiring the US based copper miner Asarco LLC which would cost him only a couple of billion dollars.
In an interview to Bloomberg TV aired today, Agarwal said, “ I was buying Asarco, it was ready-made company, (requiring) a couple of billion dollars. Either, I could do Asarco or I could do Vedanta Aluminium…I said, look, I am going to work for my country. I said I want to create this 4,000 MW power plant, I am going to create 3 million ton aluminium capacity. We have bauxite, we have human resource, let’s do it here….I think, at the end of the day, if you ask me, I regret. I could have done better if I had bought Asarco. This would have been a feather on my cap. I don’t know why it is coming, but it is coming from my heart.”
Although Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina plant is presently struggling with raw material supply issues, the timing of his latest comments appear a little surprising, a senior Odisha official told the OST.
“It is because Agarwal’s comment comes in the wake of a new arrangement Vedanta has worked out with both the Odisha government and engineering giant L&T which which will allow the Lanjigarh alumina refinery to source its bauxite from the two mines for which L&T has the licence,” the official said.
In fact, only three days ago Agarwal along with the executive chairman of L&T AM Naik had a meeting with chief minister Naveen Patnaik after which he appeared confident of getting an assured source of bauxite for his Lanjigarh refinery project and said, “the chief minister had told us that we can source bauxite from L&T’s reserves.”
L&T has prospective licence ( PL ) over two bauxite reserves at Sijimali and Kutrumali mines in Rayagada and Kalahandi districts respectively. Both the mines have an estimated bauxite deposit of about 300 million tonnes. Niyamgiri, on the other hand, had around bauxite deposit of just 70 million ton.
The refinery and its proposed bauxite source in Niyamgiri hill have been in the midst of controversies since the very beginning following vehement protests by the local tribal Dongaria Kondhs as well as rights activists and NGOs to both the projects. Finally, during July-August this year, all the 12 gram sabhas in and around Niyamgiri hill, conducted by the state government as per the orders of the apex court, rejected the mining proposal altogether.
Agarwal went on to say he has invested Rs 50,000 crore in three big projects- 1.2 MTPA Lanjigarh alumina refinery, the 1.5 MTPA aluminium smelter plant at Jharsuguda and a captive power plant – in Odisha which have created at least ‘half a million jobs.’
The ‘metal czar’ Agarwa, also said during his Bloomberg TV interview that he plans to donate most of his personal wealth to philanthropy and that eradication of malnutrition in India under a project called ‘Khushi’ or happiness is uppermost in his mind.