Company Chairman Anil Agarwal, while announcing the half-yearly results, was quoted in The Economic Times as saying the Zambian decision (which we began explaining in Part One) was part of an operation to rationalize the 18,000-strong workforce. Vedanta continued to be engaged with the Zambian government over the decision to reduce staff, he added.
The Konkola mines contribute about 12 percent of Vedanta’s overall revenue. But even there, output has been impacted compared to the other units of Vedanta. For the half-year ended September 2013, revenue from Copper Zambia has declined 21 percent to USD 686.7 million, while EBITDA has dropped 45 percent to USD 101.3 million. The operating profit fell to USD 15 million, down 84 percent in the same period.
In fact, just recently, Vedanta had completed an overall group restructuring exercise, started in February this year. Keeping all these factors in mind, the Group was compelled to take some radical action to streamline its Zambian operations, company insiders say.
Red Mud Powder!
While the Zambian controversy continues to brew, a Vedanta alumina refinery commissioned a project in the Indian state of Odisha for producing Red Mud Powder in a fully mechanized and automatic plant. Dr. Mukesh Kumar, President and COO of VAL, dubbed it as “the first of its kind in the world.”
Red mud is a waste product from the alumina industry and its disposal has always proven to be a major pain point for the alumina industry. Before the Red Mud Project, no solution existed to avoid the storage of red mud slurry.
A report in The Hindu newspaper said the new plant will save in caustic consumption while producing alumina, minimize land requirement by 50 to 60 percent, and do away with wet red mud storage, thereby eliminating environmental hazards. The powdery red mud can easily be utilized in the cement industry.