Three months after issuing a closure notice to the Odisha government, Vedanta Aluminium Limited, a subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange listed multi-billion dollar Vedanta Resources group on Wednesday temporarily shut down its one-million-tonne-per-annum alumina refinery in the state due to lack of bauxite.
“Despite our concerted efforts over the past three months to ensure sustainable supplies of bauxite for our refinery in Lanjigarh (in Kalahandi district), we have not been able to find any solution. For the last three days we have run the unit at around 20% of the capacity and on Wednesday we have been forced to close down the unit due to dwindling stock of bauxite,” VAL chief executive officer Mukesh Kumar told Hindustan Times.
Kumar pointed out mounting losses and said the company had informed the state labour department about the shutdown in a letter on September 5.
He said there are around 550 direct employees while the company has outsourced another 2500 persons. However, a company release claimed the closure would affect around 7000 people engaged directly or indirectly.
“An uncertain future stares at our face,” said Paramita Behera from Human Resource department of VAL.
Social activist Prafulla Samantara, a petitioner against Vedanta in the Supreme Court and Union ministry for environment and forest, said the company’s claims of job loss was utterly inflated. “The bogey of job losses is meant to blackmail the central and state government and influence the court,” he said.
Samantara said it was VAL’s responsibility to properly compensate the employee as in the first place it illegally went on building infrastructure and starting operation without having mandatory clearances.
The anti-Vedanta activists are planning to hold a protest demonstration in Lanjigarh on Thursday demanding complete dismantling of the refinery.
Since starting operations in 2007 at Lanjigarh, more than 500 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, the refinery was sourcing bauxite from Chhatisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Gujarat.
The company has not been able to get bauxite for Niyamgiri hill – home to nearly 10,000 endangered Dangria Kond tribals, portrayed in western media as Na’vi from Hollywood blockbuster Avatar – adjoining the refinery despite an MoU with the state government in 2004.
Protest against mining in the Niyamgiri hill and problems in getting clearance from the Union ministry for environment and forest have derailed the company’s plans. Hearing for a case relating to mining lease for Niyamgiri hill is on in the Supreme Court.