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Explore possibility of restarting Vedanta’s copper plant: Supreme Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court On Wednesday, the reluctant Tamil Nadu government was pressed for a response to the suggestion of a probe. expert panel Regarding feasibility and possible opening of Vedanta’s closed copper smelting plant at Tuticorin after ensuring strict compliance. environmental protection conditions,
Tamil Nadu opposed the reopening of Vedanta’s plant, which met 36% of India’s copper needs and brought in Rs 13,500 crore to the exchequer by exporting 50% of its produce between 2014 and 2018, and Tuticorin residents. Alleged serious danger and damage to the environment.
Vedanta, however, agreed to a fresh assessment by a panel of experts while agreeing to adhere to the stringent environmental conditions of the SC-appointed panel.
The plant has been closed since 12 people were killed in police firing on a group of protesters demanding its closure.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Mishra sought to reconcile competing views on the dual aspects of public health, environmental protection and national interest. “There is genuine concern of the State as guardian of the health and life of the residents of Tuticorin. We cannot ignore this as governments regardless of political party have supported the closure of the plant. Also, it is a national asset. is, as described in our 2013 decision. There is national interest involved as there are only a few copper smelting plants in India. We can ask the panel to examine all the issues and give us a report within a month Further, we can determine the quantum of damages the plant has to pay for the past violations,” the bench said and posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.
Appearing for Vedanta, senior advocate Shyam Divan told the bench that the plant was closed unilaterally by the TN government without any show cause notice, in blatant disregard of the principles of natural justice. He sensationally alleged that the 2018 protests were encouraged by foreign NGOs after Vedanta made public disclosure about its plans to expand existing facilities in Tuticorin to meet the challenges posed by other copper producing countries like China. it was done.
“To remain competitive and viable, the plant must not only be efficient but also have the capacity to expand,” he said. The plant, established in 1997 after receiving all statutory clearances including environment clearance, employed about 3,000 employees. It was a national asset, as the Supreme Court itself stated in its 2013 judgment.”
Appearing for TN, senior advocates CS Vaidyanathan and Gopal Sankaranarayanan said the state had broader public interest grounds to order closure of the plant, which posed a serious threat to the life and health of the residents of Tuticorin. Have given. Despite Tamil Nadu being a politically polarized state, there is unanimity among political parties on the closure of the copper smelting plant. Vedanta can sell its assets and go elsewhere,” he said.
The CJI-led bench said it was not inclined to allow Vedanta to renovate the plant or make it functional through an interim order. However, she said she was of the view that the feasibility of the plant and if viable, its reopening with stringent conditions should be examined by a panel comprising representatives of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Should be done. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and three nationally acclaimed environmental experts.
“There is genuine concern of the state as a custodian of the health and life of the residents of Tuticorin. We cannot ignore it because political party governments have supported the closure of the plant. Also, it is a national asset.” As described in our 2013 decision. National interest is involved in this. We can ask the panel to investigate all the issues and give us a report within a month. Further, we can determine the quantum of loss to be caused to the company for past violations,” the bench said.

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