The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday allowed Vedanta access to its administrative unit in the Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. However, the bench said the company did not have access to its production unit and directed the district magistrate to ensure this.
A bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice (retd) A K Goel directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to submit within 10 days data on pollution around the Sterlite Copper plant. The bench also made it clear that it would hear Vedanta’s plea on merits and rejected the state government’s submission that the tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case.
In the last hearing on July 30, the NGT had refused to grant interim relief to Vedanta, which had challenged a Tamil Nadu government order to permanently shut down its plant in Tuticorin. Earlier, the tribunal had issued notices to the state government and the pollution board, seeking their responses after Tamil Nadu raised preliminary objections with regard to the maintainability of Vedanta’s plea.
The Tamil Nadu government had, on May 28, ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently” close the mining group’s copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns. Earlier in April, the Tamil Nadu pollution control board had rejected Sterlite’s plea to renew the Consent To Operate certification, saying the company had not complied with the stipulated conditions. Following this, the government issued a permanent closure notice to the plant.
Residents around the Sterlite Copper plant began fresh protests that continued for 100 days after the unit announced fresh plans to expand its operations in Tuticorin. This culminated in the May 22 police firing on protesters that claimed 13 lives and left scores injured.