Copper smelter Sterlite re-opens after protests: sources

NEW DELHI Sun Jun 16, 2013 10:24pm IST

A general view shows Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin, in Tamil Nadu April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

A general view shows Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin, in Tamil Nadu April 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's top copper smelter re-opened on Sunday after complaints from residents forced a two-month shutdown, a company source directly involved with the court-mandated process and a source at a local pollution board told Reuters.

Locals in the Tuticorin area of Tamil Nadu had complained that emissions from the plant, run by Sterlite Industries STRL.NS, a unit of London-based Vedanta Resources (VED.L), were causing breathing problems.

"We have restarted the plant in the presence of the court-appointed panel," the company source told Reuters. "It should ramp up to full capacity in about five days."

The ensuing shutdown had squeezed domestic copper supplies and boosted imports and prices and the reopening will come as a relief to cable makers such as Finolex Cables Ltd (FNXC.NS) and Precision Wires India Ltd (PRWR.NS).

But it will further deplete already tight global stocks of copper concentrate, which is produced by mines and sold to smelters and refiners who treat the ore and refine the copper.

Authorities shut the plant on March 30, but a Supreme Court decision on June 10 said the plant could re-open. The smelter re-opened under the supervision of a court-appointed safety panel, which visited the site on Sunday.

Sterlite denies that the emissions from the plant are dangerously high. The smelter produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper per month, or more than half of India's total production.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Jason Neely)

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