Cuttack: The Orissa High Court directed Monday three Union secretaries and the Chairman of the Railway Board to resolve the crisis of coal supply to National Aluminum Company’s (Nalco) smelter plant at Angul and its Alumina refinery at Damanjodi in 24 hours.
A Division Bench headed by Chief Justice S Muralidhar ordered ‘since the essential dispute concerns two Central PSUs-MCL and Nalco, and also involves the role of the Railways, the court considers it appropriate to direct that the Secretary, Power, the Secretary, Coal, the Secretary, Mines and the Chairman, Railway Board, will sit together in virtual or hybrid mode with the managing directors of the MCL and Nalco not later than 6.00pm (April 26) to find the way for resolving the crisis to ensure that the smelter plant of Nalco at Angul and its Alumina refinery at Damanjodi are not pushed to the brink of a shutdown’.
The dry fuel scarcity issue was brought to the notice of the High Court by the Nalco Officers’ Association and the court had directed the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) last week to consider the request of the country’s biggest aluminium manufacturer on a priority basis.
When the matter came up for adjudication Monday, counsel for Nalco informed the Odisha High Court that coal supply from the MCL had come down by 60 per cent of the contracted demand and coal stocks available with the alumina major can keep its units going only for three more days.
On the other hand, counsel for the MCL submitted that the coal company should not be compelled to supply dry fuel only to Nalco through rakes as MCL is also required to supply the fossil fuel to other power plants as well.
The MCL counsel also urged the Court to direct Nalco to lift coal from MCL’s pit at Bharatpur, about 20 km from the smelter plant, either by road or by ‘Merry Go Round’ (MGR), a dedicated rail line connecting the coalmine pit head with Nalco’s smelter plant.
Meanwhile, the high court received two other writ petitions in which the Utkal Chamber of Commerce and District Small Scale Manufacturing Enterprises expressed apprehensions that MSMEs in the state would suffer if the power supply was reduced due to the non-availability of coal for thermal power plants.