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Days after sending a notice to the Odisha government on September 6, seeking temporary closure of its one million tonne refinery at Lanjigarh, Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (VAL), a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc has sought ban on bauxite exports from the country.
The company is struggling to keep its refinery operations afloat with the plant running at barely 50 per cent capacity amid deepening uncertainties in bauxite availability. VAL has not been allotted any mine in Odisha and fully depends on external bauxite supplies to run its refinery.
“We have written to Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci) recently, urging the industry body to move the Centre for a ban on bauxite exports. Earlier, we had also written to Federation of Indian Mineral Industries (FIMI) demanding the same. We are not able to source bauxite while the raw material continues to be exported from Gujarat and Maharashtra,” said Mukesh Kumar, president and chief operating officer of VAL.
Kumar said the company was unable to source bauxite from state owned Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) as the PSU was yet to come out with a tender.
VAL had filed 26 applications with the state government, seeking alternative bauxite deposits but to no avail.
Odisha chief secretary B K Patnaik said, “There is no readily available bauxite that we can offer to Vedanta Aluminium. There is no dearth of bauxite deposits in the state. But the mines have to be opened and these need regulatory approvals. Moreover, the Niyamgiri case is still locked up in the Supreme Court and the state government can do nothing about it.”
Meanwhile, the Lok Shakti Abhiyan (LSA), which had filed a case against Vedanta refinery in the Supreme Court, alleged that VAL is making profit in Lanjigarh and not running on losses.
“A loss making company can’t make a contribution of Rs 28 crore to political parties as the company has claimed in its annual general meeting in London this year,” said Prafulla Samantara, president, LSA.
“The Lanjigarh plant should be dismantled and land must be restored back to people with due penalty. The money that Vedanta has spent in last two elections in Odisha should be investigated into by the CBI,” he added.
VAL, however, trashed these allegations. “All these allegations are baseless. We have clarified about it in our AGM and stated in the closure notice about incurring losses of Rs 2,500 crore in running the Lanjigarh refinery,” Kumar said.