Unfortunate, Vedanta says about Sterlite closure

By NT Bureau Published on May 29, 2018 02:23 PM IST

Chennai: Vedanta Ltd has termed it 'unfortunate' the Tamilnadu government's order to close down the Sterlite copper plant at Thoothukudi and said it would decide the future course of action after studying the development.

This follows Tamilnadu government ordering the State Pollution Control Board to seal and permanently close the Vedanta group's copper plant in Thoothukudi, yesterday, following last week's violent protests over pollution concerns during which 13 people were killed in police firing.

"Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since, we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to the Thoothukudi and State's socio-economic development. We will study the development and decide on the future course of action," Vedanta Ltd said in a statement.

"Now the plant is permanently closed. The Government Order (GO) has been implemented," Tuticorin District Collector Sandeep Nanduri said. The government's decision came a day ahead of the start of the State Assembly session where it is likely to come under intense Opposition fire over the Tuticorin incidents.

The closure of the copper plant caps sustained protests and campaign for the last several years by the local people against copper factory over environmental pollution concerns.

The GO said it endorsed the recent closure direction of the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board, and also asked the TNPCB to "seal the unit and close the plant permanently." Chief Minsiter K Palaniswami said the government has issued the GO in deference to the sentiments of the people.

Describing the loss of 12 lives in violent protests in Tuticorin as 'unfortunate', Vedanta chairman Anil Agarwal earlier, said Sterlite Copper would like to continue operations at the company’s plant with support from the community.

In a video message on Twitter, Agarwal claimed that the company strictly abide by the rules when it came to following anti-pollution norms. "I am very sad to hear the incident… This was absolutely unfortunate. My full sympathy is with the families (of the deceased)," Agarwal said.

"We always make sure the community and Tuticorin people at large prosper with us.' The NRI billionaire further said, 'I am totally committed for the community, people at large, and with their wish, and with their prosperity we would like to continue this business."

Reiterating the commitment of the company to environment and 'the development of people of Thoothukudi and Tamilnadu, Agarwal said, "(we) will abide by the law of the land. Once again, I am very much in pain, (with) what happened."

The locals were protesting for the closure of the factory for 99 days. Protesters turned violent on 22 May, the 100th day of their stir, and 13 people were killed in police action against them last Tuesday and Wednesday.

The plant also had...
* A refinery, a phosphoric acid plant and a sulphuric acid plant. The company also engages in the mining of bauxite, zinc ore and the production of various aluminum products as well as the manufacture of zinc ingots and lead ingots.* The company’s main operating subsidiaries are Hindustan Zinc Limited for its zinc and lead operations, Copper Mines of Tasmania Pty Ltd for its copper operations in Australia and Bharat Aluminium Company Limited for its aluminium operations. It also operates a copper mine in Australia.

* On 23 Feb 2001, Sterlite bought 51 per cent stake in Bharat Aluminium Co. from the government of India by $118.5 million. In September 2013, SESA Goa, Sterlite Industries and Vedanta Aluminium merged to form Sesa Sterlite Limited.


CEO speaks...
Sterlite Copper, chief executive officer P Ramnath told a media outfit that the company has met all the environmental rules needed to meet. 'We have spent over Rs 500 crore for environmental mitigation in our facility. State-of-the-art environment protection measures have been implemented,' he said.

'The company hopes to start the plant as soon as it gets a favourable verdict from the courts,' said Ramnath.

Ramnath said allegations that Sterlite Copper is polluting the marine ecosystem and causing cancer among the people who live in the vicinity of the plant are 'myths' being spread by a 'nefarious' faction of protesters.

'Those are completely incorrect. If you see hard data then the rate of cancer in Tuticorin is much below the state average. And it is baseless to link Sterlite's operations to cancer,' he said.