The lease for its Panchpatmali bauxite mines having expired three days ago, the National Aluminium Company (Nalco) is pinning hopes on the November 26 Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting to give a go-ahead for its temporary work permit (TWP).
Though the forest clearance for the TWP reportedly does not figure on the FAC agenda, the Navratna company is hopeful of a last-minute inclusion that could bail it out of a precarious situation in which mining has stopped since November 17 following lease expiry a day before.
Interestingly, the Central PSU had submitted application for the TWP to the State Government as early as in February, but the latter recommended the same to the MoEF only in October thereby causing the delay in the the application being placed before the FAC.
The FAC, a powerful body of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), was supposed to meet on October 30 when the TWP was to be placed, but the meeting did not take place. The next meeting is scheduled on November 26 and 27.
However, if the FAC does not take up the TWP proposal, Chairman-cum-Managing Director Ansuman Das said the PSU will request the MoEF to accord working permit through a resolution route or through any such order.
Das said there has been no loss of production till now though mining has stopped since November 17 as the company has already stocked up 2.5 lakh tonne bauxite in its refinery in anticipation of the problems. This stock will last for another two or three weeks. The refinery is currently working at 70 per cent capacity.
In order to secure the TWP as an interim measure before the mining lease is renewed, Nalco top brass has been on its toes. “We have already drawn the attention of the MoEF to the matter. Union Mines Minister Dinsha Patel had met Union Environment and Forests Minister Jayanti Natarajan over the issue while I also personally approached her on it,” Das told mediapersons here on Monday.
The aluminium major is currently seeking the TWP for 293 hectare for one year, although 165 hectare has infrastructure established on it. It is for a patch of 158 hectare (128 hectare and an additional 30 hectare) on which bauxite extraction through the TWP route is being sought by Nalco.
The PSU had been sanctioned 30-year lease of bauxite mines in Koraput’s Panchpatmali for 4,692 hectare and this includes South, North and Central blocks.
In 2002, it surrendered 1,288 hectare and proposed surrender of another 2,087 hectare in 2010. For 1,315 hectare which it wanted to retain in Central and North blocks, the lease expired on November 16.
Nalco had sought 20-year renewal of the lease on October 30, 2010. Since the renewal was not coming its way, it applied for the TWP in February so that its refinery is fed. “There is no reason why the TWP should not be given or the mining lease will not be renewed. However, if the FAC does not clear the TWP, it will be a disaster for the mining industry,” Das said.