Court orders closure of Sterlite’s copper smelter plant

Chennai, Sep 29 (Calcutta Tube) The Madras High Court Tuesday ordered immediate closure of the Tuticorin-based copper smelter plant of Sterlite Industries India Ltd – a part of the Vedanta Resources group – for violating various environmental laws and causing pollution.

Delivering its order on writ petitions filed by National Trust for Clean Environment (NTCE) and MDMK General Secretary Vaiko, a bench of Justice Elipe Dharmarao and Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar also said that the employees are entitled for compensation under Section 25 FFF of Industrial Disputes Act at the rate of 16 days wages for every completed years of service.

The court also asked the Tuticorin district collector to take necessary steps for the re-employment of the factory workers in other organisations around Tuticorin, to the extent possible, to protect their livelihood.

Quashing the environmental clearances given by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) for the original setting up of the plant as well as subsequent capacity expansion, the court said that the plant had come up within the 25 km of the environmentally fragile zone near the Gulf of Mannar.

‘The bench ordered closure of the plant as it was violating pollution laws and functioning without holding the mandatory public hearing and environment impact assessment (EIA),’ NTCE’s advocate G.Rama Priya told IANS.

From the start, the copper smelter plant was mired in controversy. Originally the plant was planned in Goa but it faced severe opposition from the state’s people. However, the AIADMK regime under J. Jayalalithaa gave a warm welcome to the project and allotted land at Tuticorin.

Ever since then the plant was in the eye of storm with Vaiko leading a protest against the project and later filing a case.

The company’s operations in Tuticorin include the smelter, a refinery, and production of phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, and copper rods.

Sterlite Industries was in the process of expanding the copper smelter capacity and putting up a 160 MW captive power unit at Tuticorin. The project was slated to go on stream next year.

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