13 Pollution Protestors Killed At Indian Copper Plant

Thousands gather on the streets of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu to protest against the Sterlite copper

A copper plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu has been ordered to shut down permanently after 13 people were killed recently by the police while protesting against water pollution caused by the smelter and ancillary activities.

“The closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to Tuticorin and the state’s socio-economic development. We will study the order and decide on the future course of action,” a statement from the plant’s UK owner Vedanta Resources said.

The controversial copper plant was permanently closed May 28 less than a week after security forces opened fire on demonstrators who claimed the smelting site was polluting air and groundwater.

State authorities said the decision to close the plant was made in the “larger public interest.”

The plant was the second-largest of its kind in India, with an annual output of over 400,000 tonnes, which would have doubled if expansion plans had been realized.

Protests against pollution, and the planned expansion of the facility, came to a head when protesters marched towards a government building last week. Police opened fire on the crowd killing 13 people and wounding at least 40.

Vedanta claims to have evacuated some 3,500 employees due to tensions. The company’s share price has dropped by over 6 per cent.

Indian domestic copper production capacity has halved as a result of the smelter’s closure; copper imports are expected to rise sharply.

Tamil Nadu authorities have ordered a probe into the violence.

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