Bhubaneswar, Sept. 21: The state government will begin a search for more bauxite mines in the state from the first week of November.
The move comes in the wake of the state’s inability to provide bauxite from Niyamgiri hills to Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Kalahandi district.
Director of the state geology department P.K. Ojha said: “There is a great demand for bauxite as Odisha is witnessing a rapid growth in industrialisation, particularly in the steel, alumina and cement sectors. We have to meet the needs of their bauxite requirements.”
The state has 1,795 million tonnes of bauxite reserves. The present reserves would meet the needs of state’s industrialisation for another 30 to 35 years.
“After we failed to provide bauxite to Vedanta for its Lanjigarh plant, we are scouting for more bauxite areas in the state,” Ojha said.
The directorate has prepared a five-year integrated plan to carry out exploration. “The State Geological Programme Board, of which the Geological Survey of India and others are members, approved the exploration plan last week,” said Ojha.
Official sources said a budget of Rs 28 crore had been earmarked for the project.
“The exercise to identify potential mines will start from November and continue till December 2018,” said Ojha.
The exploration will be carried out over 2,073sqkm spanning three districts — Koraput, Rayagada and Kalahandi. It will be taken up on nearly 100 plateaus known for rich deposits of bauxite.
Officials will take the help of remote-sensing technology and satellite imagery to carry out extensive surveys and scientists will visit the sites to make physical assessments of the reserves and the quality of the bauxite rocks.
Known bauxite mines have seven to eight metre thick rocks.
“We will try to ascertain the thickness of rocks in the proposed mines. While higher quality bauxite can be used for alumina plants, lower grade bauxite may be used in cement and other industries,” an official said.
After failing to get the rights to mine bauxite from Niyamgiri hills, Vedanta Aluminium Limited had approached the state government to provide them with alternative mines so that they could to run their one-million-tonne alumina refinery plant.
The Niyamgiri mines were to be jointly mined by the Odisha Mining Corporation and a Vedanta Group subsidiary.
“There are small bauxite reserves which have not been given to any company and are lying unutilised. They can be allotted to us. Many of them are located in non-forest areas,” said an official of Vedanta Aluminium Limited.