April 11, 2018 / 7:10 AM / in 10 months

Vedanta says Indian copper smelting plant expansion on track

(Reuters) - Vedanta Resources said on Wednesday its plans for capacity expansion at the Thootukudi copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu were on track, a day after its application to renew operations was rejected by the state pollution regulator.

A bird flies past the logo of Vedanta installed on the facade of its headquarters in Mumbai, India January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

Billionaire Anil Agarwal-controlled Vedanta said on Tuesday its application for renewal of consent to operate the plant, one of India’s biggest, was rejected by the state pollution control board.

People in Thootukudi have been protesting against the proposed expansion of the smelter, thronging the streets and shutting shops to press their demand for closure of the plant.

Vedanta says the protests are based on “false allegations” and it has been providing “regular information through various media on the truth”. The company plans to double capacity at the smelter to 800,000 tonnes per year.

The smelter, run by Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit, is controlled by Vedanta Ltd, a majority-owned subsidiary of London-listed Vedanta Resources.

The application was rejected for want of more clarifications on periodical furnishing of data and on implementing some guidelines, which Sterlite is already working on, a Vedanta spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The company said it will work on the recommendations to ensure that it was compliant and was planning to take appropriate legal recourse.

The unit is currently closed as part of a 15-day scheduled maintenance, which would likely be extended, the company said on Tuesday.

Locals and environmentalists say Vedanta’s smelter is a major source of pollution and a risk to fisheries.

Several cases have been filed against Sterlite since the plant started in 1996. In a different case, India’s top court in 2013 fined the company about $18 million for breaking environmental laws at the smelter.

The smelter was shut for more than two months in 2013 by an Indian environmental court after complaints from residents over emissions, forcing India to ramp up imports of copper.

India’s consumption of copper has been rising consistently over the last few years. At current demand growth of 7-8 percent per year, India may turn into a net importer of copper by the year ended March 2020 if no new plant is commissioned, consultancy firm ICRA Ltd said in a report last week.

Cable makers such as Finolex Cables Ltd and Precision Wires India Ltd have traditionally bought copper from the two biggest producers, Vedanta’s Sterlite and Aditya Birla Group’s Hindalco Industries Ltd.

Vedanta Resources shares were up 3.7 percent, while Vedanta Ltd shares were up 3.8 percent after the company also reported zinc, aluminium, iron ore and copper production that beat estimates by at least two analysts.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Sunil Nair

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