Allow us to operate power plant, pleads Sterlite Copper

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on May 19, 2020

The Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu   -  REUTERS

Sterlite Copper, whose 4-lakh-tonne smelter in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, has been lying shut for over two years, is now pleading to the State government to allow it to operate its 160 MW power plant.

In letters written recently to the State Chief Minister and Electricity Minister, Sterlite Copper pointed out that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had clearly told the Madras High Court that it had no objections to the power plant operating, “as it is not linked to the copper smelter”.

The smelter has been lying shut since April 9, 2018, when the TNPCB shut it in on environmental concerns. Sterlite Copper, a unit of Vedanta Ltd, says the plant fully complies with all environmental regulations. “Not even once have we been served a notice on non-compliance in the last five years,” Pankaj Kumar, CEO of Sterlite Copper, told BusinessLine.

But are there pollution concerns over the coal-fired power plant? Sterlite says the 160 MW plant accounts for less than 4 per cent of the total capacity of all the thermal power plants in the Thoothukudi region, which is 4,027 MW.

The power plant, commissioned in 2013, was not part of the TNPCB order for closure of the smelter. “However, when the authorities came for shutting down our copper production facilities, they also disconnected the power supply to our power plant,” the company has said in its letters, which have not received replies, according to Kumar.

Due to the closure of the smelter and power plant, Sterlite Copper claims it is losing ₹5 crore a day.

On January 9 this year, the Madras High Court said it had reserved its verdict on the case. One of the judges was quoted by media reports as saying, “We shall endeavour to deliver the judgment as early as possible.”

Now, as the company anxiously awaits the judgment, it has two requests of the State government: One, allow it do to some pre-opening preparatory work at the factory so that if the verdict comes in its favour, it can reopen the plant smoothly; two, give it ‘consent to operate’ the power plant, which is not part of any controversy.

Published on May 19, 2020

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