The Sterlite copper smelter in Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) in coastal Tamil Nadu has been considered a major polluter ever since its inception in 1997. The current crisis started with the unit announcing plans to double capacity of the smelter to 8,00,000 tonnes per year.
After Tamil Nadu shut a copper smelter run by Vedanta Resources following deadly protests, the company faces another challenge 1,000 miles away, where axe-toting tribesmen and environmentalists have joined forces to demand the closure of an alumina refinery.
Amidst death of 13 people and Tamil Nadu government’s order shutting down of the 22-year old plant, P. Ramnath, CEO of Sterlite Copper says that “false propaganda dominated over the truth about the company”.
The Tamil Nadu government has been punching the air since ordering the “permanent closure” of Sterlite Copper smelter in Tuticorin on Monday, but legal experts say the grounds of the order are so weak that the company could challenge it.
One of India’s largest copper production plants – Sterlite Copper at Tuticorin – is shut.
India faces a copper supply shock after the Tamil Nadu government ordered billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd. to shut down a plant permanently, following deadly protests in a move that will slash nationwide output and stoke demand for imports.
The violence and police firing in Thoothukudi that claimed 13 lives rocked the Tamil Nadu assembly on Tuesday with Chief Minister K Palaniswami blaming the DMK, and “some anti-social elements” for the violence and maintaining that the subsequent police action was “unavoidable”.
Vedanta Resources is working on a legal challenge to the Tamil Nadu government’s closure of its Sterlite copper smelter, but it will not proceed until tensions over the deaths of 13 people during protests last week have eased, two sources told Reuters.
Let’s call it the Padmavat syndrome: if a militant enough group of protesters can be mobilised to try to ban a film, a factory, a hospital, what have you, then India’s political leadership will speedily set aside its professed desire to improve ease of doing business, and sacrifice it at the altar of ‘popular sentiment’.
Dismissing claims by protesters at Thoothukudi, Sterlite Copper chief executive P. Ramnath said the villagers are parroting allegations made by non-governmental organizations (NGOs).