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Tuticorin copper smelter facing severe damage, needs critical maintenance work, Vedanta tells Supreme Court

With the Tuticorin region expected to continue to receive heavy rainfall, the need for carrying out maintenance work for the plant’s assets and structure becomes critical, the company stresses.

November 29, 2021 / 03:11 PM IST

Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper smelter plant in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin is facing severe corrosion and faces threat of total structure collapse, the company has informed the Supreme Court.

The copper smelter plant which has been shut down since May 2018 is deteriorating fast and is in dire need of care and maintenance work, an affidavit filed by Vedanta before the Supreme Court states.

Urging the apex court to urgently hear Vedanta’s plea for granting company access to the plant to carry out essential maintenance work, the affidavit highlights the damage caused to the facility on being inundated after heavy rains lashed parts of Tamil Nadu.

Acid leak at the facility in the early months of 2021 was allegedly brought to the notice of the concerned authorities, Vedanta says. However, no action was taken to address the same, the company claims. “The incidents of acid leakages, if left unaddressed, may adversely affect the environment,” the affidavit filed by Vedanta says.

The local level monitoring committee which has identified the damage caused due to stormwater and rainwater stagnation in the facility has failed to give access to the company to carry out essential maintenance work. Several communications made by the company to the state government have also borne no fruit, the affidavit details.

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With the Tuticorin region expected to continue to receive heavy rainfall, the need for carrying out maintenance work for the plant’s assets and structure becomes critical, the company stresses.

This copper smelter was closed down by the Tamil Nadu government in 2018 shortly after civilian protests against the plant took a violent turn resulting in 13 deaths in police firing. The closure was directed on grounds of violation of prescribed environmental norms.

On being challenged by Vedanta, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) allowed opening of the plant while finding the closure ordered by the state government to be disproportionate. This order was set aside by the Supreme Court and directed the company to approach the Madras High Court if it wished to seek any interim reliefs.

Neither Madras High Court, nor the Supreme Court have allowed reopening of the plant. Vedanta’s plea seeking access to the plant periodically to carry out essential maintenance work remains pending before the Supreme Court. It is this plea that the company is seeking an urgent hearing of citing “steeply deteriorating” condition of the plant and the structures in it.
Shruti Mahajan
first published: Nov 29, 2021 03:11 pm
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