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Odisha govt should give us alternate mine, says Vedanta

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New Delhi, Oct 24:

Vedanta Resources today said it has sought an alternate bauxite mine from Odisha government to run its Lanjigarh alumina refinery, which is staring at uncertain future due to local tribals rejecting the proposal to carry out mining in the Niyamgiri hills.

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“We want very strongly that the state government, the Central government take on priority to give us the alternate bauxite (mine) as early as possible. That is very important,” Vedanta Chairman Anil Agarwal told reporters here after delivering a lecture in local Shri Ram College of Commerce.

The Rs 5,000 crore alumina refinery is first project among various businesses of Vedanta that has failed to take off. Since inception, the 1 million tonne refinery and its proposed long-term bauxite source — mining in the Niyamgiri hills — have been in the midst of controversies as the local tribals are opposed to the two projects.

During July-August this year, 12 gram sabhas, selected by the Odisha government for the referendum on mining in Niyamgiri hills, had rejected the proposal. They were selected after a Supreme Court order of April 18, in which it had directed the Odisha government to conduct meetings of gram sabhas for deciding whether mining will impact the religious, community and cultural rights of the villagers, especially their right to worship Niyam Raja, their deity.

Their rejection has led to an uncertain future for the refinery as it does not have any long term source of bauxite, which is the most important raw material in producing alumina — the intermediate product used in making aluminium.

Currently, the refinery is running at 40 per cent capacity which has led to Vedanta importing alumina so that the company can run its 0.5 MT smelter in nearby Jharsuguda. However, Agarwal said imports of alumina can’t be done on a long term basis and the company needs an alternate mine to run the Lanjigarh refinery.

“You can not make our country import-based economy. We have all the resources, how can you import everything. How can you do that,” he said. Vedanta Aluminium – a group firm of Vedanta which operates the refinery – has been sourcing bauxite from other states like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh to run the alumina refinery.

It needs 3 MT bauxite to run the 1 MTPA refinery. In the past two years, Vedanta has applied for 26 other bauxite deposits in Odisha after it sensed stiff opposition by the locals and civil rights group against mining in the Niyamgiri Hills.

It has also been eyeing three Laterite mines, which is a minor mineral and has properties some what similar to bauxite, for running the Lanjigarh refinery. The mines are in Rayagada district. Vedanta has invested about Rs 50,000 crore in Odisha in the aluminium sector. (PTI)