Molten copper pours into ceramic molds to form plates at the Southern Copper Corp. smelter facility in Ilo, Peru (Photographer: Dado Galdieri/Bloomberg)  

Vedanta Blames NGOs for Closure of its Indian Copper Smelter

(Bloomberg) -- Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd. said non-governmental organizations are to blame for the shutdown of its copper plant in southern India, as the company prepares for a lengthy battle to restart the operation.

NGOs urged local protests to stop Vedanta from doubling capacity at the 400,000 metric tons-a-year smelter in the state of Tamil Nadu, plant chief P. Ramnath said, without naming any groups. The state’s government ordered the closure of the smelter in May following fatal demonstrations at the plant.

Tamil Nadu’s pollution-control board will hear a petition to renew the license to operate the plant next month, and the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday will also review Vedanta’s plea to restart the plant.

A prolonged shutdown is expected to quadruple India’s copper imports as buyers move to secure supplies. The plant closure may cut the nation’s production by 40 percent to 510,000 tons in the 12 months through March, according to credit ratings company Care Ratings Ltd.

“It’s a big blow to our domestic manufacturing,” Ramnath said in an interview in New Delhi. “Supplies from our plant have dried up at a time when copper demand in India is set to rise because of initiatives like rural electrification, railways electrification and expansion of renewables.”

Some local people are supporting the restart of the plant, Ramnath said. Vedanta will try to retain all its 4,000 employees at the plant, and move some of them to other locations if necessary, he said.

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