Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Resources, which has attracted the ire of environmentalists for its various projects in India, wants the Centre to clarify if mining waste can be dumped outside the lease area.

Though mining leases have been renewed in Goa, work is yet to restart as some statutory clearances, particularly environmental, are pending.

“We are waiting for clarification on some environmental issues. We have been dumping waste on the land we bought, but we have been permitted to dump waste outside lease areas. We want clarification on whether it will be a proper mining practice to do so,” said Tom Albanese, Group CEO, Vedanta Resources.

The Supreme Court had restricted the dumping of waste outside the mining lease area on the grounds that the Mines & Minerals Development Act does not permit it. In fact, even the ordinance did not allow it. However, the company’s mining lease, which was renewed before the ordinance came into effect on January 12, 2015, allowed it to dump outside the lease area. But the company does not want to take any chances. It wants the Centre to clearly state that dumping outside the lease area is allowed, so that there are no problems.

Small lease area

A feature of mining in Goa is the small lease area, with the largest mines being 100 hectares. There only a handful of such mines. The lease area usually ranges from 20 to 50 hectares.

Albanese told BusinessLine that the “leases are only for the resource area. If we dump the waste rock on that resource area, then we are curtailing future prospects. What we want to do is maximise the extraction of resources. We want a clear direction from the Government on the proper mining practice.” The company is also awaiting reinstatement of environment clearances after the renewal of the lease.

Seeking quick redress, Albanese said that because of the imposition of ban/duty on export of iron ore, the country has already lost 100 million tonnes of global market-share over the past few years.

“It is clear that Goa ore, being low grade, is not needed or desired by the Indian steel sector. Exports are the only solution, so why not make it attractive,” he said, adding that duty was imposed when iron ore prices were high. Asked if the Centre’s decision to auction mines when the best ones have already been leased out (renewed following the ban being lifted), would attract developers, he said: “For me, the mineral auctioning is showing to the public that the resource is being transferred to the private sector in a transparent manner.”

He agreed that the auctioning would happen even in the absence of full-fledged information (data on resources are scant), but added that “what we see is that as information becomes available (maybe just geological information), it leads to a transparent process. We look forward to that, as it will break the logjam with mineral lease transfers”.

On Vedanta participating in the ongoing coal block auctions through group companies, he said: “Coal shortage has affected our businesses. We were completely dependent on Coal India linkages, e-auctions or imports. We had to scramble to import but that clogged up the ports and rail lines. This will help us end uncertainty in supplies.”