India’s import of refined copper has more than trebled between 2017-18 and 2019-20, while exports have declined by over 90 per cent during the period, the Centre informed Parliament on Wednesday.

In a written response in the Lok Sabha, Union Minister of Mines, Coal and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said refined copper imports increased from 44,245 tonnes in 2017-18 to 92,990 tonnes during 2018-19 and 1.52 lakh tonnes (lt) in 2019-20.

Similarly, exports declined from 3.78 lt in 2017-18 to 47,917 tonnes in 2018-19 and 36,959 tonnes in 2019-20, respectively.

“Consequently, there was a net import of 44,373 tonnes and 1,15,005 tonnes in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively, against net exports of 3,34,310 tonnes in 2017-18,” the minister said.

Joshi said the closure of the UK-based Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi since May 2018 affected domestic production of refined copper.

The copper plant, which has the capacity to produce four lakh tonnes of refined copper, was ordered shut by the Tamil Nadu government after protests demanding its closure turned violent on May 22, 2018.

Joshi said copper production in the country, as a result of Sterlite Copper Plant’s closure, dropped to 4.1 lt in 2019-20 from 8.3 lt during 2017-18. Refined copper output during 2018-19 was 4.5 lt.