India’s Madras High Court dismissed Vedanta’s plea for restarting operations at the Tuticorin copper smelter on Tuesday. The company had challenged the state government’s decision ordering the closure of the plant in May 2018 amid local protests on pollution caused by the plant.
Vedanta’s subisidiary Sterlite Copper was refused permission to restart the plant despite intense lobbying. The company’s chairman Anil Agarwal had urged India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to look into the matter. Sterlite has a copper anode and copper cathode production capacity of 400,000mt and copper rod capacity of 250,000mt. With the recent government focus on self-reliance, it was expected that the plant could be reopened through some interventions in order to reduce the country’s copper imports.
Vedanta is expected to challenge the Madras High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, ahead of its delisting from the Indian exchanges, the company had written-off the copper smelter assets from its books.
Smelter at Tuticorin is shut since April 2018 following direction for plant closure and disconnection of power supply by the state pollution control board. In May 2018, the Tamil Nadu state government permanently seal the plant. Vedanta had appealed to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in December 2018, on which the NGT set aside the state government’s order and directed the pollution board to renew the order. However, India’s Supreme Court in February 2019, set aside NGT’s order on ground of jurisdiction and asked Vedanta to seek relief from Madras High Court.
Vedanta’s Silvassa refinery and wire rod plant helps the company cater to the domestic market. In Q1, Vedanta’s copper production increased by 4pc to 17,000mt from the prior year, as reported by Davis Index.