Permanent closure of Sterlite Copper

The Anil Agarwal-led company Sterlite Copper, the Vedanta Group’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi, was sealed on Monday evening, shortly after the Tamil Nadu Environment and Forests Department issued a two-page Government Order for its permanent closure.

13 people were killed in Thoothukudi last week when the police opened fire on anti-Sterlite protesters.

In Thoothukudi, Collector Sandeep Nanduri, who supervised the sealing operations, said, “The plant is permanently sealed. There is no more confusion. I request the people of Thoothukudi to cooperate with the district administration to bring normalcy back in the district.”

The decision to close down the factory that directly employed around 3,500 workers, including 2,500 on contract (since put on notice), comes against the backdrop of the killing of 13 persons in police firing at an anti-Sterlite rally a week ago.

The order said, Under Sections 18(1)(b) of the Water Act 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.

It pointed out that the TNPCB did not renew the Consent to Operate to Vedanta Ltd.’s copper smelter plant in its order dated April 9, 2018.

“The Amma (former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa) government has issued an order to have the Sterlite plant closed down permanently in deference to the sentiments of the people of Thoothukudi,” Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami told journalists in the evening after chairing a meeting of his party legislators at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai.

In a stock exchange announcement, the Sterlite confirmed the receipt of order from the Government of Tamil Nadu directing the TNPCB to seal its ‘Copper Smelter Plant 1 at Thoothukudi District, Tamil Nadu’ and to close the said plant permanently.

Vedanta has termed the permanent closure of the copper smelter an unfortunate incident, saying that they will determine future course of action after going through the order.

Large-scale violence on May 12 during the mass protest against the Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin and subsequent police firing had led to the death of 12 persons and the next day saw one more youth succumbing to injuries sustained in police firing.

Sterlite Copper is a unit of Vedanta Ltd which operates a 400,000-tonne per annum capacity plant in Tuticorin.

(Our correspondent)