The first batch of medical oxygen manufactured in Sterlite’s copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi was dispatched to Thoothukudi and Tirunelveli, according to a press release issued by Vedanta, which owns Sterlite. The first consignment carried 4.8 tonnes of liquid oxygen, the company said.
The plant started manufacturing oxygen on May 12 and will dispatch two such oxygen tankers every day as the production is gradually increased, the statement said. "The oxygen supplied is of 98.6% purity and has received the necessary medical-grade certifications. We are now working with experts to resolve the logistics involved in transporting the oxygen produced in our facility to required parts of India, and are coordinating with the authorised nodal agencies in this regard,” the statement added.
On April 27, the Supreme Court allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi to reopen for the purposes of manufacturing medical oxygen in view of the pandemic situation in the country. The plant was sealed shut by the government of Tamil Nadu on May 28, 2018, citing violations of environmental norms. The closure of the plant came after a massive protest in Thoothukudi against the operation of the plant, which culminated in 15 persons being killed in police firing on May 22, 2018.
The Supreme Court order allowed the Sterlite plant to open for the purposes of producing medical oxygen, only till July 30, 2021, after which the court will reassess the situation. It also said that there must not be any political bickering over the production of oxygen by Vedanta at a time when the country is facing a crisis. It added that the reopening of the Sterlite plant to produce oxygen will not create any equity in the company’s favour.
The order came after the Supreme Court remarked that people are dying due to lack of oxygen and questioned why the state government can’t take over the Sterlite plant and produce medical oxygen to be distributed across the country. After that, the state government also held consultations with all the major political parties in the state and discussed the options available to it regarding the reopening of the plant.