Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maoists assault affects production at NALCO's mines

15 Apr 2009, 2008 hrs IST, Rakhi Mazumdar , ET Bureau

KOLKATA: The Maoists appear to have hit home with last Sunday’s attack on Nalco’s prized Damanjodi mines in Orissa. Guess what? The country’s
largest aluminium producer is likely to lose a week’s production at its prized bauxite mines in Damanjodi even as it prepares to take a string of measures to allay employee fears in the aftermath of the unprecedented Maoist strike.

While the Nalco top brass has urged the bomb disposal squad of the state police to ‘scan’ the mines area at Damanjodi before declaring it safe for resumption of operations, things may take time in Ground Zero. With Orissa going to polls on Thursday, the state police is busy providing security cover at election booths.

"Given the situation, we hope to get bomb disposal squad at Damanjodi on Friday. Once they declare it safe, we will be able to resume work at the mines in phases from Saturday," a top Nalco official told ET. Nalco operates two shifts on a daily basis producing some 14,000 tonnes of bauxite. On that basis alone it would suffer 1 lakh tonnes of bauxite production because of the unprecendented Maoist strike.

If anything, the attack has instilled fear in the minds of the people in the region. A total 500 employees, including officers, work in the Damanjodi mines which holds Asia’s largest bauxite deposits. But after the attacks, no one is willing to work in the evening shift especially between 6 to 10 pm.

"We are taking immediate steps to scale up security in the area. The CISF has already stepped up deployment in the mines. We have also started repairing barbed wire fences damaged during the raid," P K Mahapatra Nalco’s executive director mines & refinery at Damanjodi said.

The director general of state police and other senior officials including Nalco’s director (personnel & administration) and executive director (personnel & administration) also checked out the site and spoke to the employees union in a bid to allay fears about their safety.

Police have also managed to seize nine tonnes of explosives that Maosist rebels had stolen during the raid. An explosives-filled van was recovered from the Panchpatmalli hill slopes at a distance from the mines. But it is yet to be handed back to Nalco, a company official said.

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