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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Vedanta plans to set up new copper smelter plant; to exit Tuticorin?

Vedanta Ltd is planning to set up a 5,00,000 tonne per annum (tpa) copper smelter plant in a coastal region of the country.

Is Vedanta Ltd planning to shift its 400,000 tpa copper smelter plant in Tuticorin — that has been shut down by the Tamil Nadu government — to some other coastal region in Bharat is the moot question now.

The company on Wednesday sought expression of interest from the coastal states wishing to partner in the project that would have an investment potential of about Rs 10,000 crore through a newspaper advertisement.

According to Vedanta, the proposed project would need about 1,000 acres of land in proximity to a port along with logistics connectivity with conveyor/corridor of rail and road to handle five million tpa material movement on both in-bound and out-bound sides.

The company said the project has a potential to provide direct and indirect employment to 10,000 people and will contribute about Rs 3,000 crore to the government treasury as taxes and others sources.

Senior officials were not available to answer IANS query as to whether the company is exiting Tuticorin.

The company later said in a statement that Bharat’s copper requirements are set to grow exponentially in the coming years.

Having ample supplies of copper is critical to ensuring successful implementation of new-gen technologies such as electric vehicles, rapid automated transport and clean energy, the company said.

“We are therefore actively on the lookout for a suitable partner state to help take forward the vision of an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ and ensure that our nation enjoys unfettered access to copper through a state-of-the-art copper manufacturing plant, the operational and environmental parameters of which are comparable to the best in the world,” Vedanta said.

According to Vedanta, the closure of the Tuticorin copper smelter plant has had a ripple effect in terms of imports and livelihoods.

“Post closure, Bharat has become a net importer of copper for the first time in 18 years, with copper imports growing 3X while exports have plunged by 90 per cent. We are continuing to explore all the legal avenues towards achieving a sustainable solution to the closure,” the company said.

The Tamil Nadu government had ordered the closure of the copper smelter plant in 2018 following a violent protest that led to the death of 13 persons in police firing.

The 400,000 tonne Sterlite copper smelter plant that has been operating in Tuticorin for over 25 years with a cumulative investment of about Rs 3,000 crore.

However, from the start, the Sterlite copper smelter plant has been facing protests by the local people alleging that it pollutes the environment.

Originally the plant was planned in Goa but it faced severe opposition from the state’s people. However, the AIADMK regime under J. Jayalalithaa gave a warm welcome to the project and allotted it land in Tuticorin.

Ever since then the plant was in the eye of storm with MDMK leader Vaiko leading a protest against the project and later filing a case.

The major political parties in Tamil Nadu — AIADMK and DMK — are against Vedanta’s copper smelter plant in Tuticorin.

The Supreme Court is hearing the case on an appeal filed by the company against the Madras High Court’s refusal to reopen the Sterlite copper smelter plant in Tuticorin.

“The next hearing in the Supreme Court will be held in August. Going by the advertisement issued by the company, it seems it may be exiting Tuticorin,” Fatima Babu, one of the persons who had filed a case against Sterlite Copper, told IANS.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed with minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)

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