Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) has been through the legal route to try and get to mine bauxite in Odisha, as we began laying out here in Part One, and lobbied the local and central governments hard, almost exhausting everything in its capacity to get its way. For a while, it did look as if it had ran out of patience – but instead it just ran out of bauxite, at the very least.
On Dec. 5 last year, as reported by MetalMiner, the refinery shut down for lack of bauxite, putting a question mark not only on its future, but on the future prospects of those employed in it.
The plant resumed operations on July 11, with bauxite sourced from neighboring states. It is currently operating at 60 percent of its capacity. VAL’s refinery is adjacent to the Niyamgiri Hills, where they propose to mine the bauxite.
So what now?
India’s highest court, the Supreme Court of India, had ruled on April 18 to listen to the views of the local residents on whether to allow mining in the area occupied by the tribe, generally called the Niyamgiri Hills. In accordance with the court’s directive, a local body meeting was convened a few days ago to get the views of the local tribes. Much to the dismay of Vedanta officials, the tribe in question refused to budge, saying the hills were a holy place for them, and that they would never allow mining there.
So while the tribe, whose livelihood too largely depends on the forests that dot the hills, refuses to give in, VAL is once again hoping that the local government would approve a plan to link the supply of ore from other sources in the neighboring states as an alternate. If the government approves, the refinery may get a new lease of life.
Or else, like some other ventures in India, it too may join the ever-growing list of metals and mining projects that either were stillborn or had to be abandoned mid-process for lack of support or because of wishy-washy investment policies.