In a setback to Vedanta, the Madras High Court today rejected the company’s plea to reopen Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant in the state’s Tuticorin district. The plant has been shut since April 2018. The order upheld the Tamil Nadu government’s move to close the plant citing major environment law violations.
Initially, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in April 2018 refused to allow the firm to operate citing major violations.
After 13 people were shot dead by the police on May 22 the same year during a protest against the Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant, the state government shut it down on May 28, alleging violation of environment laws.
“This verdict is yet another proof that people’s voice will always win”Kamal Haasan said.
The National Green Tribunal gave a favourable order to Sterlite in December 2018. However, the Supreme Court struck it down over jurisdiction issues and ordered Vedanta to approach the Madras High Court, after which the company filed multiple petitions in February this year, a month before the coronavirus lockown.
Alleging knee-jerk reaction by the state government, Vedanta denied it was polluting the environment and claimed hazardous wastes identified by the Pollution Control Board have already been delisted.
The state government has said the deaths in police firing were not the only reason why the Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant was shut down. It said the Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant was a big threat to the environment and ecology, and pollutants released by Sterlite were much higher than other companies in the area.
The closure of the “red category” smelter with a capacity of four lakh tonnes and employing 800 permanent and 3,500 contract workers in Tuticorin had led to 40 per cent fall in copper production in India. The country later imported 44,000 tonnes of copper against 3.3 lakh tonnes exported in 2017-18.
Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Plant CEO Pankaj Kumar said the firm will pursue all legal remedies.
“We firmly believe in safe and environmentally sound nature of our operations. The nation has been forced to depend on hostile neighbours for copper import. Certain forces are conspiring to stifle our nation’s ability to be an independent copper manufacturer”Mr Kumar said.
“The verdict comes as an utter shock to the employees of Sterlite Copper and the thousands of small businesses, entrepreneurs and community members dependent on our continued operations”
In 2016, the Supreme Court had imposed a fine of ? 100 crore on Sterlite for pollution and misrepresentation between 1996 and 2012.