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Naxal fear disrupts bauxite supply

Dispatch and transportation of bauxite from mines in Gumla and Lohardaga districts to different units of Hindalco Industries Limited — a flagship company of Aditya Birla Group — has come to a standstill since May 12 because of Maoist menace.


Hundreds of trucks carrying bauxite used to ply on the Netarhat-Bishunpur-Ghaghra-Lohardaga route. But the vehicles have disappeared after Naxalites torched at least six trucks on this stretch in the Ghaghra police station area on May 12. Fear of more trouble by the rebel outfits — more than four groups are active in this area — have kept the drivers away.


Bauxite from Lohardaga and Gumla is ferried to Hindalco's integrated plant in Renukoot in Uttar Pradesh that has a metal production capacity of 3.5 lakh tonnes and Muri in Jharkhand, which produces 5 lakh tonnes alumina refinery every year.


"It seems that the Hindalco management has either failed to strike a peace deal with the rebel outfits or the truck owners are too scared to ply on this route," said a businessman of Ghaghra. Daily activities in the area were also affected, as villagers, who are dependent on these mines for their livelihood, have no work for over a week.


Although Hindalco officials are tight-lipped, a senior employee said that dispatch and transportation from the mines of Serengdag and Gurdari in Gumla district and Bagru and Pakhari in Lohardaga district had taken a hit since May 12. General manager of the company's mines division K.K. Dave is apparently in Mumbai, the headquarters of Aditya Birla Group, to discuss the matter with the higher authorities.


Hindalco officials voiced concern that disruption in movement and transportation of bauxite from the mines in Jharkhand would affect production in Muri and Renukoot plants.


Gumla deputy commissioner R Sharma, who held a meeting with Hindalco officials yesterday, told The Telegraph that they had decided to provide escort to bauxite-carrying trucks. "Today, a few dumpers transported bauxite ores from Gurdari mines plateau near Netarhat. There is a possibility that dispatch and transportation will resume from Serengdag mines from tomorrow," said Sharma, adding that the rebels torched the vehicles on May 12 probably in protest against the killing of their area commander Sanjay Oraon.


"The Maoist rebels may not demand levy but the new incumbent, who has replaced Oraon, wants to make his presence felt. A rumour of bandh is enough to force the businessmen down their shutters. Vehicles have also stopped plying. This has taken a serious toll on mining activities," said a businessman of the area.


Such is the fear that vehicles do not ply at night on the route. This despite the fact that a school to train combat forces is being commissioned near Netarhat.


Hindalco has leases in four functioning major bauxite plateaus of Lohardaga and Gumla. Besides, it has two leases in Latehar, which are yet to become operational. Many other individual-owned mines operate in Gumla district. They have been forced to close down since last week.
The Telegraph / 2009 May 20
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