Sterlite: India court orders reopening of controversial copper plant

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Sterlite: India court orders reopening of controversial copper plant

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The plant has been closed since May

India's Supreme Court has ordered the reopening of a copper smelter that was shut down because of the environmental damage it was allegedly causing.

The plant in the southern port city of Tuticorin was closed in May after police killed 13 people amid protests by residents.

They said the smelter was polluting ground water in the area and threatened the fishing industry.

India's environment court had cleared the plant's reopening in December.

But the state government of Tamil Nadu had appealed against the decision in the Supreme Court.

  • Nine die as Tuticorin Sterlite Copper protest turns violent
  • The grassroots movement that shut down an Indian copper plant

The plant, Sterlite Copper, is a subsidiary of the UK-based Vedanta conglomerate. Protests demanding its closure had been going on for months by the time it was shut in May.

But no-one had reportedly been working in the plant for nearly two months before that.

The company's operational licence had expired in April and the company was waiting for the government to renew it.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police killed 13 people amid protests by residents in May

The state pollution control board also disconnected electricity supply to the plant, alleging that it had failed to adhere to certain agreed upon environmental conditions.

But Vedanta had denied the allegations.

  • How Vedanta's mine hope rests on 12 tribal villages

This isn't the first time Vedanta's plans have sparked protests over environmental pollution.

In 2010, the Indian government had rejected the company's bid to mine bauxite in the eastern state of Orissa.

The company had said the proposed $2.7bn investment in the area would bring jobs and development to one of India's poorest districts. But local tribespeople objected, saying the mining project would destroy their sacred hill and their source of livelihood.

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