The audit agency says Nalco is liable for legal action for violations of environmental clearance terms
The National Aluminium Company Ltd (Nalco) has been consistently violating terms and conditions put before it while being given the environmental clearance by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) for its refinery and smelter plants in Odisha, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found.
On July 17, 2019, CAG tabled its audit report titled Operational Performance and Productivity of the Refinery and Smelter Plants of National Aluminium Company Limited in Parliament.
In its application for environmental clearance for its south block mine in Odisha's Koraput district in October 2010, Nalco had said an in-pit bauxite crusher facility would be constructed and the crushed bauxite would be transported downhill through a conveyor system. Based on this, the company received the environmental clearance in February 2011 from MoEF&CC.
The Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) issued the 'Consent to Establish' certificate in October 2010 with the condition that the conveyor system would be used to transport bauxite. The state pollution board reiterated this condition again in December 2016 while giving the consent to operate.
The company advanced its bauxite excavation and also increased the quantity, contrary to its proposed timeline. But the conveyor system was not in place. So, it transported them through dumpers.
"This decision to prepone excavation from the south block mine compelled the company to transport (December 2017) excavated bauxite from the mine faces to the adjoining central and north Block mines by dumpers for crushing and onward transportation to the alumina refinery, as the conveyor was not ready. This was a non-compliance of the conditions of EC (environment clearance) granted by MoEF&CC and CTE/CTO (consent to establish/consent to operate) granted by OSPCB," says the CAG audit report.
Nalco countered this audit observation saying the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) and MoEF&CC had approved this. The CAG turned it down saying, "The reply of the management/ministry is not acceptable as the IBM is not the authority for waiver of the conditions specified in the EC, CTE and CTO clearances."
Similarly, Nalco has been found flouting rules on its allowed level of red mud discharge as well as on red mud pond effluent. The OSPCB allowed 6,087 tonnes per day of red mud discharge while Nalco reported 6,723 tonnes per day. Similarly, on red mud pond effluent, it was specified to be 5,200 kilolitres per day but Nalco recorded 5,425 kilolitres per day.
"During the period 2012-13 to 2016-17, OSPCB, while granting CTO, stipulated the limit of daily disposal of red mud and red mud pond effluent from the refinery. According to the CTO, the company cannot change or alter either the quality or quantity of the rate of discharge without the previous approval of the OSPCB," the audit report said.
The CAG has said that for this violation, the company should be liable for legal action under various laws.
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