Sterlite Copper's licence to operate not renewed by TNPCB, plant temporarily shut

In a letter written to BSE and NSE, Sterlite confirmed that their application to extend operations of the smelter was not approved.
Sterlite Copper's licence to operate not renewed by TNPCB, plant temporarily shut
Sterlite Copper's licence to operate not renewed by TNPCB, plant temporarily shut

The controversial Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi is currently ‘under maintenance’ for an indefinite period of time, after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board refused to renew the application to extend the Consent to Operate the plant. This came to light through a letter written by Vedanta – the parent firm of Sterlite – to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), informing them about the rejection of the application under Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) guidelines.

The letter written by Vedanta Company Secretary and Compliance Officer Bhumika Sood, says, “...please take note that the Company had applied for renewal of consent to operate (CTO) for its existing Smelter plant at Thoothukudi. The application has been rejected for want of more clarifications. The Company is evaluating further course of action.”

It further said that the ‘maintenance work’ at the smelter will continue beyond the 15 days that they had earlier notified, but they have not given a date for re-starting operations so far. The plant has been shut since March 29, after huge protests rocked Thoothukudi against Sterlite.

“As informed by the company Vide letter dated March 27, 2018, the scheduled maintenance activities were supposed to be for a period of approximately 15 days from the said date is now likely to be extended given the above development. The Company shall update further developments from time to time,” Vedanta’s letter to BSE and NSE said. The letter was accessed by Tamil news channels.

The renewal of the Consent to Operate reportedly expired on March 31.

Sterlite has been facing severe opposition from the people of Thoothukudi, who have accused the company of causing pollution in the city, and have demanded the shut down of the copper smelter inside the city. On March 24, thousands of people took to the streets against the mining giant, and the protests have since resonated with people across Tamil Nadu, and also the Tamil diaspora across the world.

Activists say that this is not the first time that Sterlite’s licence has not been renewed by TNPCB. “However, in the past, the company has continued to operate without licence, and the TNPCB has also allowed them to continue with unlicenced operations,” says environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, who has been following the Sterlite issue for several years now.

“But this time, there is public scrutiny. Sterlite cannot operate without the renewal, and the TNPCB, too, is being careful,” he adds.

“This is a good first step. The refusal to renew consent vindicates people’s stance that Sterlite is operating unlawfully. The Pollution Control Board must take the next few logical steps and stop the ongoing illegal expansion, and shut down the existing plant permanently,” Nityanand adds. 

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