Metallurgical Machinery & Equipment
Vedanta Ltd. sought approval from the administration of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu to repair its copper smelter as the plant is “crumbling” after being ordered to remain shut for more than a year.
The factory’s cooling towers and pipe ducts have collapsed, Pankaj Kumar, chief executive officer of the unit, Sterlite Copper, said in a phone interview.
“We have approached the local government to be allowed to keep the plant in an healthy condition,” Kumar said. “It will get worse and worse.”
The state government closed the smelter in May last year after 13 people died when police opened fire on protesters
Vedanta, backed by billionaire Anil Agarwal, stopped operations at the smelter for maintenance in March 2018 and later extended the shutdown due to mounting opposition from villagers against alleged pollution caused by the plant. The state government closed the smelter in May last year after 13 people died when police opened fire on protesters.
The prolonged closure of the 400,000 tons a year smelter has “significantly” cut India’s copper cathode production, according to the nation’s Mines Ministry. Output plunged 40% from a year earlier during the April-March financial year to 457,245 tons, data showed. India’s refined copper consumption is estimated at 660,000 tons annually, about 3% of the world market, it said.
Shambhu Kallolikar, principal secretary to the government of Tamil Nadu, could not be reached for comment on his office phone.
After multiple court hearings, including a favorable verdict for Vedanta by the National Green Tribunal, the Supreme Court in February stalled the reopening, saying the environment court didn’t have the jurisdiction to decide on the matter. It directed the company to file a petition with the state’s high court.
The shutdown also cut the country’s refined copper exports by 87% during the 12 months ended March 31 to about 50,000 tons from a year earlier, while imports more than doubled to 95,713 tons, according to the trade ministry data.