Jharsuguda: With each passing day, more skeletons are tumbling out of Vedanta Alumimium Limited (VAL)’s closet. Days after startling revelations of mining major’s mounting dues to Odisha government came to the fore, an assessment committee subsequently formed by Jharsuguda administration informed that nearly Rs 3000 crore royalty is pending on the company.
The committee was formed on September 22 after an RTI-based query exposed VAL’s illegal extraction of groundwater and unpaid dues compounded over the years from over Rs 4 crore to Rs 13 crore during 2007-2013, official sources said. The data on hefty pending dues revealed by the petition ruffled a few feathers as groundwater depletion in the Western Odisha’s industrially developed district headquarters town has been a major concern.
Jharsuguda ADM Lankeswar Amat said the committee, formed under chairmanship of the Sub Collector and comprises the tehsildar, mining officer, Roads and Building (R&B) Engineer and Regional Officer of Odisha State Pollution Control Board, will serve a notice to the CEO of VAL once a detailed assessment is made and stringent action will be taken in case of non-payment of the dues.
He further said ever since the mining company set up its shop in the district, it has not paid any royalty to the State. As per the lease condition, the company was not granted permission for any kind of mining but it continued to extract minor minerals for various kinds of construction.
As per a letter from Jharsugua tehsildar office in March 2020, VAL in violation of the lease condition, constructed five ash ponds with another one still in the making where soil was dug and minor minerals extracted.
On August 31, another letter on non-payment of royalty was sent to the company. This year alone, three letters were sent to VAL in this regard but to no avail, the ADM said. If the company does not pay up within seven days after receipt of notice, strict action will be taken as per the Odisha Minor Mineral Concession (OMMC) Rules, he added.
The committee observed that VAL has not paid any royalty for the extraction of minor minerals used in construction of 2800 MW thermal power plant, the township, two smelter plants, ash heaps on the pretext of filling over 50 low-land fillings, ash ponds, etc.
As per sources, the Odisha Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) has paid Rs 500 crore royalty to the Odisha government in last six years. If this estimate is taken into consideration, VAL’s royalty during this period should be double, i.e, Rs 1000 crore as its plant capacity is twice as large.
Commenting on the rough assessment pending, committee member SN Rao said VAL has not given any royalty to the State government ever since its establishment and going by the extent of its operational infrastructure, it owes the State government a royalty of nearly Rs 3000 crore in the last 18 years.