With raw material issues casting a shadow on his Rs 50,000-crore aluminium project in Odisha, metal czar Anil Agarwal said he regretted choosing India over an acquisition in the US for the investment.

“You know, how my mind was working at that time. I was buying Asarco, it was ready-made company, (requiring) a couple of billion dollars. Either, I could do Asarco or I could do Vedanta Aluminium.

“I said, look, I am going to work for my country. I said I want to create this 4,000 MW power plant, I am going to create 3 million tonne aluminium capacity. We have bauxite, we have human resource, let’s do it here.

“I think, at the end of the day, if you ask me, I regret. I could have done better if I had bought Asarco. This would have been a feather on my cap. I don’t know why it is coming, but it is coming from my heart,” Vedanta Resources Chairman Agarwal said in an interview to a news channel.

Clouds over Lanjigarh

His comments come in the backdrop of Vedanta’s alumina refinery project at Lanjigarh in Odisha staring at an uncertain future due to lack of assured supply of input.

The refinery and its proposed long-term bauxite source — mines in Niyamgiri hills — have been in the midst of controversies even since the beginning as the local tribal people opposed the projects.

Finally, during July-August this year, 12 gram sabhas, selected by Odisha government for a referendum on mining in Niyamgiri hills, had rejected the mining proposal altogether, dashing Vedanta’s hopes for getting the raw material.

Why India

It is currently operating at about 50-60 per cent of the installed capacity. The unit needs three million tonnes of bauxite to run at full capacity.

Agarwal said it was his “biggest passion” to build a new aluminium project in the country following a thought that “the only thing that I can do for India is to create this capacity of aluminium.”

The company has invested Rs 50,000 crore in the refinery along with an aluminium smelter of 1.5 MTPA at Jharsuguda and a captive power plant in the state. It created at least half a million jobs, Agarwal said.

“Tremendous work we have done,” he added.

Vedanta had bid for US-based miner Asarco, but backed out later. It had to pay $132.75 million as damage to Asarco for its unsuccessful takeover bid in 2009.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Odisha had allowed Vedanta to source bauxite from mines owned by Larsen and Toubro for the refinery project.

L&T has two bauxite reserves at Sijimali and Kutrumali mines in south Odisha’s Rayagada and Kalahandi districts respectively. Both the mines have an estimated bauxite deposit of about 300 million tonnes.

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