Public sector National Aluminium Company (NALCO), which has bauxite mines and alumina refinery and smelter in neighbouring Odisha, has revived its proposal for bauxite mining and investment on aluminium complex in Visakhapatnam district generating a lot of interest among various circles.
After a lull on bauxite mining, the issue has become a hot topic with many opining that bauxite mining by NALCO, which is under the Ministry of Mines with proven track record on employment and CSR activity in Odisha, may not come in the way of Samata judgment given by the Supreme Court.
NALCO Chairman and Managing Director T.K. Chand during his recent visit to the city told The Hindu that they were interested to set up 1.4 or two million tonne alumina refinery with an investment of ₹7,000 crore to ₹12,000 crore in addition to smelter complex and captive power plant.
He said they were in the process of seeking permission from the State and Central Governments for obtaining mining leases.
In the case filed by Samata, an anti-mining NGO which filed the writ against Birla Periclase project, the court held in mid-1990s that the mineral resources in the scheduled areas could be explored only by the State, its instrumentalities or tribal themselves forming into a cooperative.
“Being in a navaratna public sector and ushering in development in Odisha, NALCO’s mining proposal will not violate judgment in Samata case. If allowed it will help boost the economy in Visakhapatnam district,” senior trade union leader Padi Trinadha Rao said.
Many had earlier opposed the bids for mining bauxite by APMDC, which does not have the expertise stating that this would lead to benami mining by Jindal South West Ltd and Anrak Aluminium Ltd. The government had signed MoUs with Jindal in 2005 and Anrak, joint venture of Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority and Penna Group two years later. Both the projects had mooted an investment of ₹20,000 crore. After Jindal and Anrak, NALCO had also proposed to set up alumina refinery and sought bauxite mines in the region.
The decision on bauxite mining was put on hold by the UPA Government on the plea made by then Union Minister for Tribal Welfare V. Kishore Chandra Deo that mining is violation of Regulation I of 70 of Land Transfer (Prevention) Act and Panchyat Extension in Scheduled Areas Act had placed the mining issue under suspension.
The State Government had issued a GO Ms. No. 97 to revive mining by APMDC, ITDA and DWCRA groups, and withdrew it later following stiff opposition.