File photo of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit, in Tuticorin. (Source: PTI)

Vedanta To Challenge Madras High Court’s Order Restraining Sterlite From Reopening Copper Plant

Vedanta Ltd. said it will move the Supreme Court to implement the National Green Tribunal’s order to restart its copper smelter in Tamil Nadu, which accounts for nearly half of India’s output, after the Madras High Court restrained the company from taking any steps to reopen the unit.

“The honourable Madras High Court also directed the Tamil Nadu state government to make its position clear by Jan. 21 on whether it proposes to file an appeal against the NGT order of Dec. 15,” P Ramnath, chief executive officer of Sterlite Copper, said in a statement. “Sterlite Copper will move the Supreme Court to help implement the NGT order in early January.”

The Madras High Court on Friday ordered a status quo as existed before the NGT set aside a Tamil Nadu government order for closure of Sterlite’s copper plant in Tuticorin.

Justices KK Sasindhran and PD Audikesavalu of the Madurai Bench also restrained the Vedanta group from taking any steps to reopen the unit.

The bench issued notice to the state chief secretary and the chief executive officer of Sterlite to file their counter.

The state government had on May 28 ordered the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to seal and “permanently” close the mining group’s copper plant following violent protests by locals over pollution concerns.

On an appeal by the Sterlite, the NGT had quashed the order, holding that that it was “non-sustainable” and “unjustified”.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson AK Goel had asked the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks from Dec. 15.

Reacting to the development, the state government had on the same day said it would file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the tribunal order. Sterlite had on Thursday sought permission from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for reopening the plant.

Also read: Sterlite Plant: Tribunal Remits Vedanta’s Plea To Panel Headed By Former Judge

The court was hearing a petition filed by Fathima of Tuticorin opposing re-opening of the copper smelter plant. The petitioner alleged that the NGT order was available on the internet even before the tribunal pronounced its verdict and accused the Vedanta group of being behind it.

Hence, the NGT order should be set aside and permission should not be granted to reopen the factory, she contended. The state government had ordered closure of the unit following violent protests by locals, leading to the death of 13 people in police firing on May 22-23 in Tuticorin.

The locals had been agitating against the Sterlite unit alleging that it was causing pollution.

After the NGT order too, several outfits with the backing of the Left parties and local religious bodies have been agitating against the Sterlite unit, prompting the police to tighten security to it and also at important places in the southern district.

The green panel in its order has said Sterlite should spend within three years Rs 100 crore on welfare of inhabitants of the area as offered by it during the hearing.

The bench had also suggested that the company take steps for safeguarding environment, like creating a dedicated website where the stakeholders can lodge their environment related grievances.

Also read: Vedanta Rallies as Tribunal Orders Indian Copper Smelter Restart

Ramnath had said after getting the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s permission, it would take about two months for making the plant operational.

“We have already approached the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. As per the NGT order, they (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) have been given three weeks to renew the consent. We have also made our request to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)