The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC), an expert panel of Union ministry of environment & forests (MoEF), is expected to take a call by next week on granting fresh forest clearance to the Panchpatmalli bauxite mines of National Aluminium Company (Nalco) to enable the company secure temporary work permit (TWP) to operate the mine.
TWP is essential to resume mining operation by the company which has stopped bauxite excavation following expiry of the term of the mining lease on November 16. Halt of operation at Panchpatmalli mines has raised concerns on bauxite availability for Nalco's alumina refinery at Damanjodi in Koraput district.
"We have presented our case to the FAC. The committee has taken a positive note of our case. A decision by the FAC is expected by the first week of December," said a company source. The FAC met at Delhi on Monday.
The only issue going against the company in getting the FAC clearance is the fact that it had applied for forest clearance one year and ten months before the expiry of the mining lease while the Supreme Court, in an earlier case, has ruled that the application should be submitted at least two years in advance.
"We hope this two months delay would be viewed leniently. The government has not put out any circular revising the norms in line with the apex court ruling and going by the standing rules, our application had made well in advance," said a company official.
Nalco's chairman and managing director Anshuman Das had said recently that 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 company had stated last week that it was equipped to meet the need of alumina for its aluminium smelter and export commitments at the present rate of production and stock of bauxite at disposal for three weeks.
The North-Central block of the Panchpatmali mine with deposits of around 300 million tonne, is spread over an area of 1,315 hectares (ha), out of which 1,294 ha falls under forest land. Nalco needs the nod of MoEF before the mining lease can be renewed.
Though the company had applied for renewal well in advance, lack of public hearing had marred its prospects. Locals have boycotted public hearing, ostensibly due to fear of the Red rebels.