The Indian state of Tamil Nadu has ordered the permanent closure of British metals and mining firm Vedanta Resources’ copper plant in the town of Tuticorin in the wake of growing protests.
The plant was sealed after 13 people were killed last week when police fired during protests against a proposed expansion of the smelting plant.
In response to a petition filed against the expansion, the Madras high court ordered officials to put the expansion plans in abeyance given the opposition from people in the region.
The court ordered the company to conduct a public hearing prior to the processing of the application for the renewal of environmental clearance for the Tuticorin Copper Smelter plant 2 project.
The protestors alleged that the pollution from the plant, owned by Vedanta’s Indian subsidiary Sterlite Copper, has caused respiratory and other diseases, and has contaminated ground water in the region.
Through the expansion, Vedanta intends to achieve a two-fold increase in the plant’s capacity to 800,000t.
India depends on foreign imports for most of its copper needs, while remaining demand is mainly met by private firms Vedanta and Hindalco Industries, Reuters reported.
In a BSE filing, Vedanta confirmed the receipt of the order from the Tamil Nadu Government directing the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to seal the copper smelter plant.
The company noted that it is studying the order from the government.
In a statement, Vedanta said: “Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since we have operated the plant for over 22 years in a most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to the Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) and State’s socio-economic development.”