NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Vedanta Resources Plc(VED.L) is exporting 4,000 tonnes of refined copper a month from Dubai to customers of Sterlite Industries, whose smelter will stay shut until at least May 22 when a court resumes hearing a case over its closure.
The plant, run by Vedanta unit Sterlite IndustriesSTRL.NS, meets half of India’s copper demand. The closure of the facility, which produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper a month and exports nearly half of that to China, has tightened supply and driven up prices.
The smelter was closed on March 30 after residents complained of emissions that led to breathing problems.
The shutdown has led to a doubling of copper imports to about 8,000 tonnes per month from countries like Russia, P. Ramnath, chief executive of Sterlite Copper, told Reuters. “Because of the shutdown, the gap has increased between demand and supply, which has basically resulted in premiums going up,” metals trader Ushdev International‘s(USTF.BO) Managing Director Ashwin Rathi told Reuters last Friday. “I don’t think the Sterlite issue would be resolved any time soon.”
Ramnath said that Vedanta’s unit Fujairah Gold Fze had been exporting to India since April to help Sterlite’s customers cope with the shortage.
London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta, controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal, reported a 21 percent rise in full-year earnings and said it was confident operations would resume at the Sterlite smelter.
Vedanta did not book an impairment on the asset and said it was in “full state of preparedness” to restart the smelter and that the cost of shutdown was “not very significant.”
Justice Swatanter Kumar of the National Green Tribunal, the fast-track court hearing the case, on Thursday asked the pollution control board of Tamil Nadu state to provide data on emissions from the plant before the next hearing.
No decision is expected that day as the court said it will have to hear the arguments of more parties.
Writing by Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Malini Menon and James Jukwey