Despite the clouds of uncertainty to mine in scheduled areas, Anrak Aluminium Limited (AAL) appears to be getting ready to launch alumina refining by sourcing part of its bauxite ore requirement from Gujarat.
It is also in talks with Glencore, world's largest commodity supplier and States like Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh to meet its raw material requirement to commence operations at the alumina refinery, which is in advance stage of construction at Rachapalle in Makavarapalem mandal, about 100 km from here.
AAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AP Government in 2007 for setting up 1.5-million tonne capacity alumina refinery, 2.50 lakh tonne smelter and a 90 MW captive power plant with an investment of Rs.14,000 crore.
The AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation has allotted 1925.97 acres and subsequently the Ministry of Commerce gave Anrak Project SEZ status through a notification.
Sources have told The Hindu that AAL has bid a contract from Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation to get three lakh tonnes of low grade bauxite ore by choosing the sea route for transport. Vedanta, which is setting up an alumina refinery in Lanjigarh of Odisha, is also getting an equal quantity of ore from Gujarat. The cost of total ore being supplied from Gujarat is worth Rs. 40 crore to Rs. 45 crore.
“They seem to be following the Vedanta way as for its Lanjigarh project. Vedanta has no permission to mine in Niyamgiri hills. Moreover, even if Anrak launches refining, we can't rule out its closure going by Birla Periclase's seawater magnesia project, which was shutdown when it could not source its raw material from Agency areas of the district following Samata judgment,” says Samata's executive director Rebbapragda Ravi.
In its landmark order, the apex court ruled in 1997 that only the State or its instruments or tribals themselves by forming a cooperative should indulge in mining. The judgement was later known as Samata judgment as the NGO had filed the PIL against mining quoting Regulation 1/70 of Land Transfer Act of 1959.
Though AP Mineral Development Corporation has signed bauxite ore supply agreement with AAL, the mining leases have been kept under abeyance in August 2010 by the Ministry of Mines following an appeal by Araku MP V. Kishore Chandra Deo, who is now the Union Minister for Tribal Welfare. The mining issue is under review and a detailed evaluation is being done following fears expressed over threat to the fragile ecology of Eastern Ghats and livelihood of tribal people.