Vedanta’s Sterlite plant sends out first load of medical oxygen

The Supreme Court had on April 27 allowed the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, which was shut down in May 2018 over pollution concerns, to reopen to produce oxygen.

May 13, 2021 / 11:44 AM IST
The first truck carrying oxygen left the Sterlite plant in the morning on May 13.

The first truck carrying oxygen left the Sterlite plant in the morning on May 13.

The first truck carrying medical-grade oxygen left Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi at 7 am on May 13, almost 15 days after the Supreme Court allowed its reopening to manufacture the life-saving gas as coronavirus infections surge in the southern state.

The Sterlite Copper plant, which was shut down in May 2018 over pollution concerns that followed violent protests, restarted in seven days to produce oxygen.

“One of our oxygen plants has commenced production from May 12. The first tanker carrying 4.8 tons of liquid oxygen is going to Tirunelveli/ Thoothukudi. We will be dispatching two oxygen tankers on a daily basis to begin with, and gradually scale this up as we expand production,” the company said in a release.

The supply started a day after newly elected Chief Minister MK Stalin ordered industries and medical departments to immediately set up more units to produce oxygen and also procure it from steel plants in other states.

The state on May 12 reported 30,355 new COVID-19 cases, the single biggest daily spike that pushed the state's caseload to 14,68,864, while 293 deaths took the toll to 16,471.


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Pankaj Kumar, CEO, Sterlite Copper, said they were honoured that “our facility and efforts are being directly put into helping save lives. We promise to make every possible effort to ensure that there is continuous production of oxygen from our plant to mitigate this crisis”.

The Tamil Naidu government shut down the plant and cut off the power supply in 2018 following a protest that turned violent. Thirteen people were killed 13 after police opened fire.

The company, after writing to the chief minister and the union health minister, moved the Supreme Court to reopen the plant for oxygen production.

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 Appearing for Vedanta, Harish Slave assured the court that the company would only run the oxygen plant, one of the biggest such facilities in the country.

The company told the court that plant could produce 1000 tons of oxygen and was willing to give it free of cost.

“Oxygen supplied is of 98.6 percent purity and has received the necessary medical-grade certifications. We are now working with experts to resolve the logistics involved in transporting the oxygen produced in our facility to required parts of India, and are coordinating with the authorized nodal agencies,” the company said.

The second wave of coronavirus has left India reeling as the record surge in daily infections has triggered unprecedented demand for medical oxygen with the virus attacking the respiratory system.
Tarun Sharma
first published: May 13, 2021 11:44 am

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