The Sterlite copper smelter plant was given approval by the then AIADMK government on April 26 at an all-party meeting to produce medical oxygen at its facility for a period of four months at the facility in Tuticorin about 600 kms from here.
The unit was sealed by the state government in May 2018, days after 13 agitators who were part of a protest against the company over environmental concerns were killed in police firing during a violent anti-Sterlite stir in the southern district.
Recently, Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu had commented that the production of medical oxygen would commence this week.
"One of our oxygen plants has commenced production from May 12. The first tanker carrying 4.8 tonnes of liquid oxygen is going to Tirunelveli-Tuticorin," the company said in a statement on Thursday.
With the company commencing production of medical oxygen, initially it would dispatch two oxygen tankers on a 'daily basis' and later it would be 'scaled up' by ramping up production.
Sterlite said the oxygen supplied is of 98.6 per cent 'purity' and has received the necessary certifications for its use.
"We are now working with experts to resolve the logistics involved in transporting the oxygen produced in our facility to the required parts of India and coordinating with authorised nodal agencies in this regard," it said.
Commenting on the production of medical oxygen, Sterlite Copper CEO, Pankaj Kumar said, "my team members and I are 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," he added.
The oxygen plant at the unit was reactivated at the earliest through the collaborative efforts of suppliers and partners.
The support received from employees and community also played a critical role in helping ready the plant for immediate production, the company said.
Sterlite Copper plant was grateful to the Supreme Court, central and state governments and to the local administration for providing the necessary approvals in an expedited manner, the company said.
At a meeting on April 26 chaired by the then Chief Minister K Palaniswami and attended by main opposition party DMK among others, it was resolved to allow Sterlite to produce oxygen from its plant in Tuticorin, days after Vedanta moved the Supreme Court in this connection.
As per the Supreme Court directive, power supply may be allowed for Vedanta's Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin for four months to repair and operate oxygen producing and related equipment only, the meeting had resolved.
The period may be extended later but "at no cost" shall other activities like copper manufacturing and running the co-generation plant shall be allowed and the "power supply shall be cut after this period (four months) by TANGEDCO," it added.
Tamil Nadu should get priority in the oxygen being produced here and it shall be taken to other states only after meeting its requirements, it was decided at the meeting.
A committee comprising the District Collector, Superintendent of Police, TNPCB environmental engineer from Tuticorin, government officials experts in oxygen production, local residents, NGO members and activists opposed to the plant will monitor the production of oxygen and also decide on running the unit, it said.
Earlier, the apex court had said people were dying due to lack of oxygen and questioned the Tamil Nadu government as to why it cannot take over the Sterlite copper unit for producing oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.
The Tamil Nadu government had appealed to industries across segments to come forward to produce 'medical-grade' oxygen amid the COVID-19 infections surge in Tamil Nadu and the increasing demand for oxygen support beds to treat seriously ill coronavirus patients.