The Tamil Nadu government on Monday allowed the reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper unit plant in Thoothukudi for four months to produce oxygen amid a dire shortage of the gas in several parts of the country, PTI reported. The decision was taken at an all-party meeting chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

Last week, the Supreme Court had suggested the Tamil Nadu government to take over the plant as oxygen is essential for the survival of critical coronavirus patients. The court made the observation while hearing a plea by Vedanta on the ground that it would produce oxygen and give it free of cost to treat patients.

The copper smelter plant was sealed after 13 people protesting against its expansion were killed in police firing on May 22, 2018. Residents of the area have consistently claimed the plant contaminated the region’s air and water resources.

At the all-party meeting on Monday, it was decided that power supply will be provided to the plant for four months to repair and operate oxygen producing and related equipment only, PTI reported.

“The period may be extended later but at no cost shall other activities like copper manufacturing and running the co-generation plant shall be allowed and the power supply shall be cut after this period,” the resolution adopted at the meeting said.

A government-appointed panel will also monitor the functioning of the plant. The resolution also mentioned that Tamil Nadu should get priority in usage of the oxygen produced at the plant.

India has seen a massive surge in coronavirus cases in recent days, with hospitals across the country turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds. Patients are struggling to get access to medicines and ventilators, and hospitals are taking to Twitter and going to court to desperately plead for more oxygen supplies.