The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected multinational mining company Vedanta’s plea seeking permission to reopen its Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district, Live Law reported.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said that there had been “repeated breaches” and “serious violations” by Vedanta.

“The closure of industry is undoubtedly not a matter of first choice,” the bench said on Thursday. “However, the repeated nature of breaches, coupled with the severity of the violations, would, in this analysis, allow neither the statutory authorities nor the high court to take any other view unless they were to be oblivious of their plain duty.”

In 2018, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had shut down the copper smelting plant, citing violations of environmental laws. The closure order came immediately after citizens protested at the site opposing the plant’s expansion.

Vedanta challenged the pollution control board’s closure order before the National Green Tribunal, which allowed the plant to resume operations. However, in February 2019, the Supreme Court blocked the tribunal’s order on the grounds that the body did not have the jurisdiction to decide on the matter.

The company then challenged the closure order in the Madras High Court, which in August 2020 denied Vedanta the permission to reopen the plant. The company’s petition had challenged this Madras High Court ruling.

On Thursday, the court said that while the smelting plant had contributed to the economy, the “well-settled principles of environmental jurisprudence must be remembered”.

The court said that Vedanta had failed to remove copper slabs at 11 sites, including private land, Bar and Bench reported.

The bench headed by the chief justice also questioned how the company had operated the copper smelter despite its hazardous waste licence having expired, Live Law reported.