Vedanta Limited’s lawyer demanded an investigation into the chain of events which led to the shutdown of its Sterlite Copper smelter plant in Tuticorin (Thoothukudi), Tamil Nadu, at a hearing of the Sterlite case at the Madras High Court recently.
Strict action was also sought against Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials for alleged dereliction of duty, since they allegedly prevented the company from carrying out the plant’s maintenance.
Allegedly, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board passed Sterlite’s expansion plans, but later called the company a chronic defaulter and was not given any chance to respond, meet and explain its case, the lawyer stated.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials concerned should be brought under strict punishment for their dereliction of duty in maintaining the plant, he argued.
Later, outside forces manipulated the protests, which led to the eventual shutdown of the Sterlite copper smelter plant in 2018, he told the court.
It was stated that India had to incur a forex loss of USD 2 billion after being forced to import copper from abroad due to the Sterlite copper plant’s closure for more than a year, from May 2018 onwards.
This allegedly benefited foreign copper firms immensely while Vedanta suffered a USD 200 million loss.
The court was told by Vedanta’s lawyer that some foreign entity’s economic interest was involved in increasing India’s copper import bill.
Only a vociferous minority had agitated against the plant, unlike the silent majority which benefited from the Sterlite plant, which meets 38% of India’s copper demand, Vedanta’s lawyer told the court.
If the Sterlite copper smelter plant had been allowed to function, the company would have met all the copper demand which is now supplied by imports sourced from foreign companies, he stated, adding that Vedanta was penalized without any valid reason.