The Madras High Court on Friday restrained Vedanta from reopening its Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district for a month, PTI reported. The Madurai bench ordered the status quo to continue as it existed before the National Green Tribunal last week allowed the company to resume the plant’s operations. Activists and local groups had opposed the tribunal’s order and had planned protests against the reopening of the plant.

The bench of Justices KK Sasindhran and PD Audikesavalu was hearing a plea against the tribunal’s order, which had, on December 15, set aside the Tamil Nadu government’s order to shut down the copper plant run by Vedanta, calling it unjustifiable. On Thursday, Sterlite applied for permission from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to reopen the plant.

The High Court bench said the status quo will remain in effect until January 21 and ordered the state government to inform the court if it planned to file an appeal against the tribunal’s order. The bench issued notices to the Tamil Nadu chief secretary and Sterlite’s chief executive officer.

For two decades, activists and residents have protested against the plant, saying that it has contaminated the air and water in the region and caused health problems. At least 13 people protesting against the expansion of the copper smelter were killed in May. This had prompted the state government to permanently shut down the plant.