Minor leak observed at Vedanta’s Sterlite plant in Tuticorin: Official

The smelter accounted for over a third of India's refined copper output, and India is set to see a rise in copper imports following the shutdown. Sulphuric acid, a corrosive byproduct of smelting, is used by fertilizer and chemical companies as a raw material.

By: Reuters | Madurai | Published: June 18, 2018 11:31:42 am
Minor leak observed at Vedanta's Sterlite plant in Tuticorin: Official In Tuticorin, officially known as Thoothukudi, Vedanta has been accused by local residents and environmentalists of polluting the air and groundwater. (File Photo)

A minor leak has been detected in the sulphuric acid storage plant in Vedanta’s south Indian copper smelter, a government official said on Sunday, about a month after the state ordered its shutdown after protests in which 13 people died. Police opened fire on May 22 on a crowd of protesters calling for the shutdown on the grounds of pollution. The Tamil Nadu state government then ordered a permanent shutdown.

“A leakage was observed in the sulphuric acid storage plant. It doesn’t look problematic, but we have decided to evacuate the storage tomorrow as a safety precaution,” said Sandeep Nanduri, the district’s top administrative official. Vedanta Ltd, the Indian subsidiary of Vedanta Resources PLC, which operates the smelter, said it has asked government authorities to let company officials enter the plant to fix the problem and prevent any further damage.

READSterlite Copper protests in Tuticorin give fresh impetus to tribe in Niyamgiri

“Anticipating such incidents in the absence of regular maintenance, we have been requesting the state government to give us limited manpower access and minimal power supply so that mandatory safety audits at the smelter can be regularly carried out,” the company said in a statement.

“We have had no access to the plant ever since it was suddenly sealed and locked with effect from May 28, 2018,” it said.

The smelter accounted for over a third of India’s refined copper output, and India is set to see a rise in copper imports following the shutdown. Sulphuric acid, a corrosive byproduct of smelting, is used by fertilizer and chemical companies as a raw material.

ALSO READTuticorin Sterlite Copper plant accounts for 40 per cent of country’s copper: Will hit 800 units and jobs

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