India closes copper smelter permanently after bloody protest

A bus on fire during the protest in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, on May 23, 2018. (Reuters)

An Indian state on Monday ordered the permanent closure of a copper smelter run by London-listed Vedanta Resources after 13 people protesting to demand its shutdown were killed last week.

“We have taken a decision to permanently shut down the plant and today issued government orders to do the same,” Edappadi K Palaniswami, chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu said in a statement after meeting officials, including from the pollution department.

Residents and environmental activists have long demanded a shutdown of the copper smelter, India’s second-biggest with an annual production of more than 400,000 tons, citing air and water pollution. Vedanta has denied the accusations of pollution.

View of people protesting against the construction in this still image from May 22, 2018 video footage. (Reuters)

View of people protesting against the construction in this still image from May 22, 2018 video footage. (Reuters)

The chief of its India copper business, P. Ramnath, told Reuters on Friday the company would legally fight any attempt to close the plant and it aimed to “build our bridges” with the community.

The plant, in the coastal city of Thoothukudi, has been shut since late March for maintenance and pending a renewal of its license, even as residents continued largely peaceful protests demanding it be shut for good.

The opposition escalated on Tuesday when thousands of people marched towards a government office on the 100th day of the protest. Ten people were killed in police firing that day; three more died in subsequent days.

Vedanta says it has already evacuated about 3,5000 employees from the plant site due to the tension.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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