The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on Tuesday rejected the Thoothukudi Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant’s application to renew its licence to operate beyond March 31, 2018. The board’s Chairperson Nasimuddin said the application was rejected “since the guidelines framed by TNPCB were not met adequately”.
Sterlite’s parent firm Vedanta Limited on Tuesday wrote to the BSE and the National Stock Exchange about the rejection of its application. “The application has been rejected for want of more clarifications,” the company said, adding that it is evaluating the further course of action.
The plant, which was shut on March 29 for 15 days of maintenance, will remain temporarily closed. For over two decades now, activists in Tuticorin have been accusing Sterlite of contaminating the region’s air and water resources.
Environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman said this was not the first time Sterlite has failed to renew its Consent to Operate. “Between 1996 and 2011, the company operated without license for more than 8 years and even illegally expanded and set up unauthorised factories while operating without license,” Jayaraman told Scroll.in. “Is it not curious that TNPCB has not stopped the illegal construction of Sterlite’s new factory in Thoothukudi despite all this noise?”
Since February, large-scale protests have taken place in Thoothukudi, where Sterlite Copper runs a copper smelter with the capacity to produce 4.38 lakh tonnes of copper anodes per annum, or 1,200 tonnes per day. Vedanta Limited is part of Vedanta Resources, one of the world’s largest mining and metals conglomerates. The smelter has been operational since 1996. The company wants to double the capacity by setting up another unit producing 4.38 lakh tonnes per annum.
If the company’s expansion plan goes ahead, the project would become the world’s largest smelter located in a densely populated urban area. Thoothukudi has a population of 4.11 lakh, according to the 2011 census.
Copper smelters are classified as “red” by the environment ministry, indicating that they release the most hazardous industrial waste.