MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta clobbered by accusations of bribery and brow-beating

Published by MAC on 2018-04-22
Source: Times of India, Asian Age

Once again its Sterlite subsidiary is on the line

As protests continue in Tuticorin township, India,  against the Vedanta/Sterlite copper plant - and despite an official order last week withdrawing permission for it to operate (see below) - the company has tried to import ore required to re-start its operations.

People gathered last Wednesday at a moment's notice, using their bodies to block transport by the incoming trucks.

Earlier, the central minister for shipping, revealed that Sterlite had been guilty of bribing local politicans, including trying to influence he himself in the company's favour, and to ensure it continued operating in Tamil Nadu.

Protesters block trucks carrying ore to Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin

M K Ananth

Times News Network

11 April 2018T

TUTICORIN: Activists and villagers, who are demanding closure of Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin, on Tuesday night blocked three trucks that were carrying tonnes of raw material (ore) to the plant.

The protesters alleged that the plant was functioning despite not receiving clearance from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

V Ramachandran, an activist, told TOI that a vessel with 12,000 tonne of ore had come to Tuticorin port. The ore had to be transported to Sterlite in hundreds of trucks. “We received information about it late on Tuesday evening and informed the district collector, the superintendent of police and a senior TNPCB official in Tuticorin via WhatsApp and also lodged an online complaint around 8.30pm,” he said.

Ramachandran alleged that there was no action on the same and eight trucks made their way into the plant till 10.30pm. “We came to know that eight more trucks were ready with the ore and were about to be transported to the plant. Around 50 people stopped the trucks near the gate through which they was about to enter the plant premises,” he added.

The trucks were blocked one after another, between 10.30pm and 11pm.

The SIPCOT police held talks with the protesters, after which the trucks were taken to the police station.

On Wednesday protesters picketed the office of the company (Seapol) that is transporting ore to Sterlite.

During a demonstration in front of the office of the company in the V O Chidambaranar Port Trust premises, the protesters warned that they would block the trucks carrying ore if the company continued transporting it to the plant. They also petitioned the deputy chairman of the port over the issue.

A company representative denied allegations that they had resumed production. “The smelter work is yet to be completed, due to which it is impossible to resume production,” he said and added that they were transporting raw materials to the storage facility inside the plant.

He said the government had not clamped down other activities of the plant such as importing raw materials and exporting finished products.

Sterlite tried to bribe: Union minister


17 April 2018

Chennai: Beleaguered Sterlite has a new thunderbolt striking it. This time it is the union minister of state for shipping Pon Radhakrishnan alleging that the copper smelting giant made an attempt to bribe him.

“During 1998 Lok sabha polls, I rejected the election funds offered by Sterlite industries. I also rejected the 'deals', which came to me from the company to ensure their operations in Tamil Nadu,” the senior local BJP leader said while addressing a function held at the Tuticorin port on Monday.

Notably, this has triggered another debate on the company that is already facing protests from the public for more than two months seeking its permanent closure.

“In 1996, I observed a fast against Sterlite but there was no support for me from the public as they felt that the factory would give them job opportunities, but now the same public are protesting against the company”, the minister said blaming both the DMK and the AIADMK for allowing Sterlite to be set up their plant in Tamil Nadu.

“Similarly I was the first person to protest against the Kodankulam project. In future, the public should decide on what projects they want and they should protest against any anti environment project during the early stage,” the minister said.

Commenting on the Cauvery imbroglio, the minister again blamed both the Dravidian majors. Tamil outfits and film directors fail to understand the politics played by DMK and the AIADMK and are protesting against the Centre for the Cauvery fiasco, he alleged.

The minister recently made an allegation that the politicians in the state took money from Sterlite. Last week, district collector N. Venkatesh warned action against Sterlite protesters if the public peace was disturbed. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control had also recently suspended the renewal application of Sterlite plant.

Vedanta's request to renew copper smelter operations in India rejected


10 April 2018

BENGALURU – Vedanta Resources Plc said on Tuesday its application for renewal of consent to operate its copper smelting plant, one of India's biggest, in the South Indian town of Thootukudi was rejected by the state pollution regulator.

The rejection comes amid almost daily protests against a proposed expansion of the smelter by the people of Thootukudi, who have thronged the streets and shut shops demanding a closure of the plant.

Vedanta says the protests are based on "false allegations" and the company 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 conglomerate – controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal – said the application was rejected for want of more clarifications and it was evaluating further course of action.

The company did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters seeking further comment. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board was not immediately available for a comment.

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

The unit is currently closed as part of a 15-day scheduled maintenance, which started on March 27, and the company said the maintenance is now likely to be extended.

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.

India's consumption of copper has been increasing consistently over the last few years.

At current local 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.

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

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

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

(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Writing and additional reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in New Delhi; Editing by Sunil Nair and Alexandra Hudson)



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