The status quo on Thootukudi copper plant of Sterlite Industries continues after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) once again denied permission to the company to operate the plant or carry out maintenance independently.
The NGT bench has however allowed access to administration section of the company to the plant. NGT also ordered the Tamil Nadu state and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to analyse baseline pollution data for State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamilnadu (SIPCOT) and submit a report within ten days to the green court.
The Thootukudi plant had been operational since the last 22 years, having a capacity of producing four lakh tonne copper per annum. The plant was in process of expansion when public movement of resistance peaked, which also led to the police gunning down 13 civilians.
Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) rejected renewal of the plant’s CTO license on April 9 and issued closure orders on May 23, which the state government later endorsed through an order passed on May 28. SIPCOT has now cancelled the land allotment and TNPCB has withdrawn permissions for expansion project.
In a reply to Lok Sabha on July 20, Minister of MOEF-CC, Dr Harshvardhan said that ministry is considering an application filed by the project proponent (Vedanta) for prescribing fresh Terms of Reference for preparation of Environment Impact Assessment report for expansion proposal on February 14, earlier this year.
Vedanta is currently waiting for the MoEF-CC to prescribe the fresh Terms of Reference, only after which it will prepare the latest Environment Impact Assessment report.
The first environmental clearance for this project was granted on 16th January 1995. The project proponent has further obtained environmental clearance for expansion from time to time.