Anti-Sterlite protests: TN govt orders permanent shutdown of copper plant

Sterlite Copper, a business unit of Vedanta, a United Kingdom-based multinational mining and metals conglomerate, set up the copper smelting plant in 1996.

On Tuesday the demonstrations turned violent, with media reports and officials saying protesters began rampaging through the town, pelting police with stones, overturning cars and setting fires.

"The inaction of the government has led to the people's protests, and police resorting to firing to control it. Action should be taken to shut down the plant immediately to address this issue", M.K. Stalin, leader of the main opposition group in Tamil Nadu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, said in a Facebook post.

Sterlite Copper has requested government approval to expand its enormous plant in Tuticorin.

The police shot dead protesters who were calling for the closure of the plant owned by Vedanta Resources.

The district collector, the chairperson and member secretary of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, the secretaries holding the environment portfolios in the central and state governments, the ministers of environment at the state and Centre, and the chief minister of Tamil Nadu need to account for their inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence of illegalities, environmental harm and damage to public health.

Protesters complained that the state government had not responded to their demands.


Plans to double its capacity are also under threat after a local court delivered an interim order staying the expansion until a further hearing, to be held by September 23, Vedanta said Wednesday.

About 20 police officers were also injured in the skirmish, which occurred in the southern port city Tuticorin.

The Deputy Chief Minister was speaking to reporters here and he also added that compensation to the injured were being paid.

Vedanta Resources' stock was down about 12% at 1755 IST on the London Stock Exchange. "I would like to make it clear that Sterlite plant will be permanently shut", Panneerselvam said. "The company is working with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and the surrounding community", she said.

The company on Monday called the closure of the plant it has operated for over 22 years an "unfortunate development".

The plant was shut for more than two months in 2013 by an environmental court after residents complained about emissions.

Residents and environmental activists have long demanded a shutdown of the copper smelter, India's second-biggest with an annual production of more than 400,000 tonnes, citing air and water pollution. Days later, India's Supreme Court ordered the company to pay damages of 100 crore rupees ($15 million) for environmental rehabilitation measures.


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