The controversial project of Vedanta group to expand Sesa-Sterlite's Lanjigarh refinery is set to revive with Odisha deciding to undertake public hearing of the project later this month.
Odisha State Pollution Control Board will be holding the public hearing of the much-delayed project at Lanjigarh itself on July 30, the state agency has said.
Incidentally, the London-based Vedanta Resources was not hopeful about getting the approval for the project.
"With regard to the expansion project at Lanjigarh, the company's fresh application for environmental clearance is in process and in the meantime the expansion plans are on hold," Vedanta had told its global investors on May 15.
The development caps the tumultuous journey of the project whose survival was linked to bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills which has now been scrapped.
In fact, the refinery with current capacity of 1 million tonne (mt) was set up in the belief that bauxite would be sourced from Niyamgiri. However after years of legal battles, the Supreme Court declined to gave the forest clearance to mines in Niyamgiri, keeping interest of local tribes in mind.
Lack of availability of bauxite forced Anil Agarwal-controlled Sesa-Sterlite to operate the refinery at around 60% capacity sourcing nearly 1.5 mt from group outfit Balco's mines, and another 1 mt from other states, including Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
Despite such hindrances, Vedanta Group is going ahead with the project to expand the capacity of alumina refinery from 1 mt to 6 mt.
"The bauxite supply to the plant would be met partly from the mine located at Lanjigarh, around 3.7 kilometre from the plant site and balance would be met either from other bauxite deposits located around the plant as well as by outsourcing bauxite from other parts of the country," Sesa-Sterlite has said in its environmental impact assessment report.
Sesa Sterlite has identified sourcing bauxite for its aluminium operations as one of its top operational priorities for the current fiscal, and is now banking on the memorandum of understanding that it had with the state government.
The project cost, surprisingly, has been kept constant at Rs 8,000 crore, the report disclosed.
In a bid to exploit the vast bauxite reserve in Odisha and particularly in Kalahandi, one of the most backward areas in the country, Vedanta Aluminum applied for environmental clearance of the alumina refinery in 2007 for which terms of reference was approved in 2008.
After a public hearing, the Environment Assessment Committee went in for a site visit in 2010.
The environment ministry that year found some serious violation of environmental laws and decided to revoke the permission.
The current environment impact report now submitted to the Odisha State Pollution Control Board updates the earlier one incorporating the observations made during the site visit and also additional impact studies recommended by the environment ministry.
"There is no change in project capacity, site, scope of work technology, processes, environmental loadings and land use patter, the revised EIA report said.