Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko on Wednesday filed a petition in the Madras High Court seeking to restrain Sterlite Industries, a unit of Vedanta Ltd, from operating a copper smelter plant in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin district, reported PTI. Vaiko cited environmental concerns in the petition.

He also sought the court to direct the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, the Central Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment and Forests not to extend clearance to the unit – a copper smelter plant at Melavittan – and to take steps to shut it down immediately. Vaiko said he had approached the authorities on the matter on April 8 too, but no action had been taken.

Environmentalists have alleged that the company had misled the Union environment ministry and the Madras High Court about the location of the proposed project and that officials of the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu had backed the misrepresentation. Earlier in April, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had rejected Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant’s application to renew its licence to operate beyond March 31.

Activists in Tuticorin have been accusing Sterlite of contaminating the region’s air and water resources. Villagers alleged that pollutants from the Sterlite plant have caused breathing disorders, skin diseases, heart conditions and cancer.

Vaiko’s petition comes in the backdrop of protests by residents living around the plant for its closure, alleging that it was causing pollution. The company has rejected the allegation saying, “Zero discharge systems, utilisation of waste for sustainable applications, energy efficient systems and stringent emission monitoring are the hallmark of Sterlite.”

In 2013, the Supreme Court had imposed a fine of Rs 100 crore on the company for polluting the land and water in the area after a gas leak.