header
Government

Tamil Nadu To Allow Sterlite To Produce Oxygen, Bar on Operating Other Units

The unit was sealed by the state government in May 2018, days after 13 agitators were killed in police firing during a violent anti-Sterlite protest in the southern district.

Chennai: An all-party meeting convened by the Tamil Nadu government on Monday resolved to allow Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin to produce oxygen for a four-month period amid surging COVID cases, paving the way for the partial reopening of the copper smelter closed in 2018 over pollution concerns.

The unit was sealed by the state government in May 2018, days after 13 agitators were killed in police firing during a violent anti-Sterlite protest in the southern district.

On Monday, the chief minister K. Palaniswami-chaired meeting, attended by main opposition party DMK among others, resolved to allow Sterlite to produce oxygen from its plant in Tuticorin, days after Vedanta moved the Supreme Court in this connection.

“As per the Supreme Court directive, power supply may be allowed for Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin for four months to repair and operate oxygen producing and related equipment only,” the meeting resolved.

Also read: ‘No Shortage of Oxygen’: Adityanath Wants NSA Invoked Against Those Who Spread ‘Rumours’

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 (four months) by TANGEDCO,” it added.

Tamil Nadu should get priority in the oxygen being produced here and it shall be taken to other states only after meeting its requirements.

On Friday, the apex court had said people were dying due to lack of oxygen and questioned the Tamil Nadu government as to why it cannot take over the Sterlite copper unit for producing oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients.

“We are not interested that Vedanta or A, B or C runs it. We are interested that oxygen should be produced,” a bench headed by then Chief Justice S A Bobde had said.

Meanwhile, Vedanta’s shares, which have nearly tripled over the last year, rose by as much as 5.1% on Monday before paring gains to close 3.8% higher at 236.65 rupees, their best performance in more than two months.

Vedanta said it was working with experts to resolve the logistics of dispatching oxygen.

“We are committed to making the entire production capacity of 1,000 tonnes available for the purpose of producing medical grade oxygen,” the company said in a statement.

The company has consistently denied allegations of pollution, and has appealed to the country’s Supreme Court, seeking to reopen the plant.

Vedanta, controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal, said last month it was looking for an Indian state government partner to set up a Rs 10,000 crore ($1.37 billion) copper smelter.

With inputs from PTI and Reuters)