Sterlite protest in Thoothukudi: Madras High Court halts construction of new copper smelter plant

India News
FP Staff 

The Madras High Court stayed the expansion of Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin on Wednesday, a day after at least 11 people were killed when police fired at protesters calling for the closure of a copper smelter run by Vedanta Resources.

The plant, which can produce 400,000 tonnes of copper a year, has been shut for more than 50 days and will remain closed at least until 6 June, according to Reuters, because the local pollution regulator has said it is not complying with environmental rules.

The smelter plant has been opposed by the locals for a long time over concerns regarding environmental damage. According to reports, Vedanta had initially planned to establish the plant in Gujarat. But the proposal met with strong opposition, after which it was decided that the plant be set up in Goa. It then faced a similar kind of criticism there as well, following which it was finally decided to be set up in Tamil Nadu.

Apart from Tamil Nadu, Vedanta has also run into trouble for its projects in other parts of India. Here’s a look at them:


In February, the Odisha Cabinet amended long-term bauxite linkage policy to facilitate Vedanta to source bauxite from the Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC).

Before the move, Vedanta used to source bauxite from other sources to run its million-tonne refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi and a smelter plant in Jharsuguda. Despite a ban on mining in Odisha’s Niyamgiri, Vedanta managed to operate its Lanjigarh refinery.

Tuesday's agitation turned violent with police opening fire in which at least eleven people were killed in Tutichorin. PTI

Tuesday’s agitation turned violent with police opening fire in which at least eleven people were killed in Tutichorin. PTI

Bauxite is the primary raw material for aluminium. According to a piece by The Wire, while the refinery uses a reservoir to store the waste product “red toxic mud”, the plant’s chimneys expel toxins like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter 10 and particulate matter 2.5. There is a likelihood that the plant’s practices are linked with health issues like breathing difficulties which people living nearby claim to experience.

The Economic Times reported that the area around the plant has benefited from good roads, housing, healthcare and schools but the villages do not get to avail these facilities.


Vedanta is named as an accused in the infamous Rs 600 crore “scam” on the allotment of rock phosphate mines in Rajasthan.

After Independence, the rules allow the lease for mining to be allotted only to government-owned companies, and not private ones. Hindustan Zinc Limited was given the lease when it was in the public sector. However, the lease continued even after Vedanta took over Hindustan Zinc in 2002.

High court counsel AK Jain moved the Rajasthan High Court demanding its intervention into the matter. According to DNA, Jain accused the state government and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of protecting the multinational mining giant. Jain’s petition stated that no FIR was registered till 2015 even though the matter came to fore in 2011.

In January, the high court directed the state government to respond why it had allotted the mines to Vedanta, said DNA in another report. The case is still pending before the high court.


Vedanta’s 1,980 megawatt Talwandi Saboo thermal plant became fully operational for commercial generation in 2016. However, in less than a year, the plant was forced to shut down after a fire incident.

In April 2017, a major fire that broke out in the coal handling unit, which damaged the conveyor belt. The Times of India reported that with the closure of plant, the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (PSPCL) authorities had to immediately start two units of the Ropar thermal plant to meet the power demand in the state.

A PSPCL official told Hindustan Times that the closure of the plant had forced them to redraw the power plan. “This will cause a burden of short-term power purchase,” he was quoted as saying.

With inputs from agencies

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