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Court expected to reopen Vedanta smelter but appeal likely by TN govt

Vedanta said it could not comment on the case because the matter is sub judice


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FILE PHOTO: Agitators march through a street demanding the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite Copper unit as protest entered the 100th day, in Tuticorin. (Photo:PTI)

A court is expected on Friday to follow an experts' panel recommendation and order the reopening of a copper smelter closed after 13 people died when police fired on environmental protesters in May, two sources familiar with the matter said.

However, the Ltd plant in southern India is unlikely to resume production anytime soon because the Tamil Nadu state government will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, the sources said.

State authorities permanently shut down the smelter after police fired on protesters calling for the closure of the plant in the town of in May.

But a panel of experts set up by the Green Tribunal, the environmental court, said last week authorities in Tamil Nadu state had failed to comply with procedures before shutting down the smelter.

The panel also said the grounds for a permanent closure were not sufficiently grievous. Authorities had said the plant was polluting the environment.

"The court is likely to give a verdict based on the recommendations of the committee. The state will, however, definitely appeal if the verdict is in favour of the company," one source said.

said it could not comment on the case because the matter is sub judice.

The office of the chief minister for Tamil Nadu did not respond to an email seeking comment.


Multiple witnesses told Reuters that police gave no warning before firing with live ammunition on the protesters on May 22.

The protesters threw stones and set vehicles on fire as they marched to the district government offices in Thoothukudi, formerly known as Tuticorin, to press for the plant's closure.

The protesters said the smelter had polluted groundwater and the air around the plant.

Ten people were killed on the day of the protest and another three later died of their wounds, making it one of India's deadliest environmental protests.

It was not clear if a court order to reopen the smelter would trigger more protests.

Ltd is part of the oil-to-metals conglomerate controlled by Indian businessman

The smelter is one of the two largest in India and resuming production is crucial to the group as it faces rising costs and the impact of a slowing economy on demand for metals and energy.

Vedanta said on Thursday its copper business accounted for five percent of the company's overall profit before the smelter was shut down.

The company expected a loss of $100 million if the copper smelter remained closed for a year, Chairman told a television channel in July.

First Published: Thu, December 06 2018. 19:42 IST