Orissa may allot alternative bauxite site, says Vedanta

Our Bureau Mumbai, Aug. 27 Vedanta Resources Plc has indicated that the Orissa Government will consider allocation of alternative sources of bauxite from the State to its alumina refinery in view of the refusal of approval by the Environment Ministry and Forests to the Orissa Mining Corporation's proposal for the bauxite mining at Niyamgiri hills. Refuting various allegations over violation of norms at the Lanjigarh aluminium refinery, Vedanta Resources in a press release issued on Thursday said that the company is not in possession of the Niyamgiri mine and no mining activity has been or will be undertaken until all approvals are in place. It has clarified that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has refused final approval to the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC), and not Vedanta Aluminium's proposal for bauxite mining at Niyamgiri Hills following the recommendation of the Dr N.C. Saxena committee. In October 2004, the Orissa government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vedanta to set up an integrated alumina and aluminium complex along with the associated captive power plant in Orissa. The MoU also included supplying 150 million tonnes of bauxite for Vedanta's aluminium refinery at Lanjigarh. For this, the Orissa Government identified Niyamgiri mine as the initial source of bauxite supply to the extent of 78 million tonne, it said. OMC, which holds the lease of Niyamgiri mines, applied for approvals to commence mining. During the approval process, the mining project was extensively reviewed by the Supreme Court, including specific reviews by the expert committees appointed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The Supreme Court passed a favourable judgment to the project and granted mining approval in August 2008, said the press release. The MoU with the OMC was to encourage investment in world class bauxite deposits. Orissa has the fourth largest reserves of bauxite deposits in the world; however, no new alumina refinery has been set up in the region in the last 25 years, the company said. Reconfirming its commitment to work with the local communities to ensure sustainable development in this region, the company said the Kalahandi district, where Vedanta's alumina refinery is located, is one of the most impoverished districts. As on March 31, 2010, Vedanta had invested $5.4 billion in its alumina refinery plant and is operating its refinery with outsourced bauxite.

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