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Fresh trouble stalks Vedanta's local bauxite hunt at Kodingamali mine

Jayajit Dash / Bhubaneswar 12 May 17 | 03:37 AM

Vedanta's hope to source bauxite from the Kodingamali mines of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) has run into rough weather. As Vedanta was struggling to feed its Lanjigarh alumina refinery, the Odisha government in January this year, had struck a deal with OMC for supply of bauxite from the latter's Kodingamali lease with 81 million tonne of deposits.

But, the going may be beset with trouble for Vedanta. Lok Shakti Abhiyan (LSA), a people centric organisation has filed an objection with the Ministry of environment, forest & climate change (MoEFCC) to consider various facets before allowing extraction of bauxite from the mine.

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"We have filed an objection with the ministry regarding supply of bauxite to Vedanta from Kodingamali mine. Let there be environment impact assessment, public hearing and settlement of forest rights before the mine is opened up", said Prafulla Samantara, president of LSA.

He said the Kodingamali mine was earlier alloted to an Aditya Birla company but mining failed due to local protests.

Samantara, an environment crusader cum social activist alleged the Odisha government was manipulating situations to favour Vedanta. "The government has recommended grant of Kutrumali and Sijimali bauxite reserves for L&T. This is an indirect way of arranging bauxite for Vedanta."

The activist shot into limelight recently by bagging the Goldman Environment prize referred to as the 'Green Nobel' in recognition of his 12-year struggle to protect the rights of the local Niyamgiri tribals. Samantara galvanised the local tribes to successfully block an attempt to mine bauxite over the hills.

He said, plans to mine bauxite on Niyamgiri has been nixed and there was no logic in allowing Vedanta's refinery project to run.

"In the interest of the state and environment concerns, Vedanta's Lanjigarh plant needs to be shut down. Even the Supreme Court appointed central empowered committee had recommended that since there is no mining over Niyamgiri, the clearances granted to the Vedanta plant be withdrawn", he said.

A Vedanta spokesperson trashed his allegations. "You cannot stop a project just because it has no local bauxite sources. The refinery is running with all clearances in place and there are no objections to the project. The argument to shut down the alumina refinery project is not tenable."

On bauxite supplies by OMC's Kodingamali mine, he said, "We have nothing to do with the mine since it is OMC's discretion. Besides, we have no arrangement with OMC to source bauxite from this mine."

After the Niyamgiri fiasco, Vedanta has been pleading to the Odisha government to arrange bauxite supplies from alternative sources. The Lanjigarh refinery plant has a de-bottlenecked capacity of two million tonne per annum. Alumina output by Vedanta was up 24% in last fiscal at the company's Lanjigarh refinery in Odisha as both streams operated, producing 1.2 mt. Vedanta has permits to produce up to four million tonne of alumina every year.

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