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Lease over, Nalco stops mining

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 19: Mining activities of the National Aluminum Company Limited (Nalco), a Navaratna public sector undertaking, has been stopped for the last three days. But this has not affected the plant operations at Damanjodi in Koraput and Angul.

“We will keep up all our commitments of supplying aluminium to our overseas and domestic customers,” said its chairman-cum-managing director Ansuman Das.

Mining operations have come to a halt because the company’s mining lease for its Pachapatmali bauxite mines expired on November 16. “The process of renewing the mining lease is on. We are hopeful that the forest advisory committee of the Centre will give its permission by November so that we can begin mining operations from December,” said Das.

The meeting of the forest advisory committee is scheduled for November 26 and 27.

“The committee will take up our issue and is almost certain to clear the proposal. The Union minister of mines as well as the Union forest minister have intervened in the matter,” said Das.

Nalco’s entire operations depend on the Pachapatmali bauxite mines. Mining is now confined to the central and north blocks. The south block has not yet been touched. As the lease term was about to expire on November 16, Nalco officials applied for renewal of the lease on October 17, 2010.

However, the state government recommended Nalco’s case only on February 2012.

Both Nalco and state government officials remained tight-lipped as to why it took nearly 18 months to process the application.

“We enjoy an excellent relation with the state government. It took a lot of time because the process is cumbersome,” Das said.

Nalco’s Pachapatmali bauxite mine in Koraput covers an area of 1,315 hectares. The lease for the area is pending at different levels. Since the process would take time, Nalco officials have asked temporary working license for 293 hectares, out of which 128 hectares would be mined.

“There is no reason to panic. We have a stock of 2.5 lakh metric tonne of reserve bauxite, which will last another three weeks,” he said.

Officers from the regional office of the ministry of environment and forests will visit the spot on November 21 and 22. “Once they send their report, Nalco’s mining proposals would be approved,” he said.

Nalco is also waiting to get an approval for mining lease at Patangi mines.