Industry Info

Odisha plans bauxite prospecting at five places Odisha has 1.8 billion tonne of bauxite reserve which is nearly 55 per cent of the country's deposit

The state geology department has identified five places in Koraput and Kalahandi districts to carry out prospecting operation for bauxite, as part of its long-term plan to boost proven bauxite reserves in the state.

"For 2013-14 field season (Nov-May) we have proposed to carry out prospecting operation for bauxite at five locations in southern Odisha," said Prabhat Kumar Ojha, director of Geology with the state government.

"We have shortlisted these locations out of 100 plus plateaus of the state. As we have found strong evidence of bauxite deposit in these areas, we want to focus on these areas spreading over 2,000 square kilometers," he added.

Odisha has 1.8 billion tonne of bauxite reserve which is nearly 55 per cent of the country's deposit. Yet, no new bauxite mine has been opened in last 30 years after the Panchpatmali mines of Nalco in early 1980s. Though some bauxite mines were allotted to upcoming alumina/aluminium projects in the state, they have not been operationalised due to local protests and environment issues.

In this backdrop, the state intends to explore new bauxite reserves to meet the requirement of the industries which are unable to access the available deposits due to various problems.

It may be noted, Vedanta Aluminium, which has set up a one million tonne refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, is struggling to stay afloat after it was denied access to Niyamgiri bauxite deposit due to environment and local tribal right issues. The company has been nudging the government to allot it an alternate mine.

Similarly, Aditya Birla's Hindalco, which was granted a bauxite lease in Koraput district in 2007, is yet to start operation due to local opposition.

The state mines department has earmarked Rs 8.5 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 28 crore over next five years for prospecting operations. The Directorate of Geology has identified about 100 small plateaus spread across Koraput, Kalahandi and Raygada districts, believed to be have bauxite deposits. The prospecting activity will be taken up covering an area of 2,073 square kilometers in and around places like Sijimali, Kuturumali, Karlapat, Lakharisi, Sasubohumali and Kodingamali in these three districts.

Incidentally, these are the areas which were applied by Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL) to carry out prospecting operations. The company has filed 26 applications for bauxite mining/prospecting leases in the state and all of them are pending at various levels.

As of now, bauxite deposits explored by state Directorate of Geology, Geological Survey of India (GSI), Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL) together add up to 1,846 million tonnes of all category. The categories include proven, probable or possible.

The aim of the prospecting operations is to transform the possible and probable category of reserve into proven category, which can augment the bauxite resources in the state, said a government official.

Source: Business Standard