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Capacity boost for Vedanta

Naveen nod to Lanjigarh refinery expansion

The Vedanta plant at Lanjigarh
 

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government has given its nod to the Vedanta Limited's proposal to increase its Lanjigarh alumina refinery plant's capacity from one million tonne to six million tonne.

An official source said: "Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has given his nod to the expansion of the plant. The Vedanta has been asked to submit the plan for value addition in the state for expanded capacity."

According to the plan, the state government would supply the required bauxite to the Lanjigarh plant through the state-run Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC). The OMC has zeroed in on one of the mines - Kodingamali - for this purpose.

Earlier, it had zeroed in on Karlapata and Sashubahumali mines, among others, for the purpose. But as these mines failed to get required clearances from the Centre, the state government had found its tough to supply bauxite to the Vedanta to run its alumina refinery plant.

Steel and mines minister Prafulla Mallick told The Telegraph: "We will provide bauxite to the company from the Kodingamali bauxite mine. The bauxite mine has got the required approval including forest clearance from the Centre. We are hopeful to start the operation of the bauxite mines soon. Once it is operated, we will provide the bauxite."

Mallick said: "The OMC will provide the bauxite through long-term linkages. The Vedanta group has applied to procure bauxite from the OMC. Once the issue of shortage of bauxite is resolved, we are hopeful that they will not have any problem in going for expansion. "

Chief communication officer, Vedanta Alumina Ltd, Arun Bhatt told The Telegraph: "The state government has approved the master plan of our expansion plan. We are at present procuring the bauxite from various sources. As more mines will be opened up through auction, we are hopeful to meet our requirements."

Bhatt said: " The Vedanta Alumina, which was operating at one million tonne, has already developed its capacity to two million tonnes. The rest will be developed in a phased manner. We are committed to this plant. Our company has already invested more than Rs 50,000 crore in Odisha."

For the last eight years, the Vedanta group is running from pillar to posts to sort out the issue of short supply of bauxite to its plant. Even its chief Anil Agrawal had met the chief minister Naveen Patnaik a number of times on the issue. The company was forced to reduce its production capacity a number of times due to shortage of bauxite.

The Vedanta group had suffered a major jolt when the Union ministry of environment and forest had rejected the proposal for mining bauxite from the nearby Niyamgiri hills in 2010. Later, the state government had moved the Supreme Court seeking fresh gram sabhas to decide the fate of Niyamgiri deposits crucial to industry. The gram sabhas had rejected mining of bauxite from Niyagamiri as the Kondh tribals worship the hills as their presiding deity.

Even they had held demonstrations and formed human chains in the hills protesting against mining.

On Supreme Court directive, the gram sabhas had been held in 2013 again to seek the opinion of local tribals. But it had unanimously rejected the proposal to mine the hills. The decision was later welcomed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who had campaigned actively against the project and described himself as the "sipahi" (soldier) of local tribals.

Since then question marks have been raised over the future of Vedanta's refinery plant at Lanjigarh.

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