Even as National Aluminium Company (Nalco) awaits anxiously for the nod of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for grant of temporary work permit (TWP) to reopen its lapsed bauxite mine, the non-inclusion of the matter in the agenda of the next meeting of FAC has emerged as a matter of concern.
Any delay in the FAC, which is crucial for grant of TWP, may jeopardise the future operation of the company’s 2.1 million tonne alumina refinery at Damanjodi, on the foot of Panchpatmali bauxite deposit in Koraput district.
The FAC meeting is scheduled on 26th and 27 of this month. The agenda of the meeting, as of now, does not include discussion on giving clearance for 293 hectares of forest land within the mining lease to enable the company access TWP to operate the mine, which has been closed from Saturday following expiry of the lease period on November 16.
While admitting the threat to its alumina refinery in case of any delay FAC nod, the company keeps its fingers crossed over the issue. “If FAC does not give its nod, then we may face problem. But we are hopeful FAC would clear our case as we are abiding by all rules in our mining operation,” said Nalco chairman and managing director Anshuman Das.
After getting the FAC nod, the company hopes to resume mining operation at Panchpatmali by the first week of December.
On the matter not being included in the agenda of the FAC meeting, he said, certain processes have to be completed before the matter comes up to the FAC table. “The regional head of MoEF have to file an inspection report on the mine, which is expected on November 23. After his report is filed, we hope the matter will be taken up by FAC in its next meeting,” Das said.
He added, “in case FAC does not take up the matter on 26th or 27th of this month, we would request MoEF to give us the requisite clearance through a resolution or circular subject to proper clearance later”.
Das said, the company has built up a stock of about 2,50,000 tonne of bauxite. It needs about 13,000 tonne bauxite per day to run the refinery at the present rate of alumina output (about 4,500 tonne per day), which is 70 percent of the full capacity.
The Nalco official said, the company, for the next three weeks, has no problem in meeting the need of alumina for its aluminium smelter and export commitments at the present rate of production and stock of bauxite at disposal.
The North-Central block of the Panchpatmali mine in Koraput district is spread over an area of 1,315 ha, out of which 1,294 ha come under forest land. Nalco needs the nod of MoEF for only 293 ha forest area at present for grant of TWP enforceable for one year and extendable after that for 3 months.