Sterlite Copper Smelter provides medical oxygen to 16 districts in Tamil Nadu, focuses on ramping up facility


New Delhi: Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Smelter in Tuticorin that has been operational since May, under special permission from Tamil Nadu Government. 

It has despatched over 542.92MT of liquid medical oxygen. This is in addition 265 oxygen gas cylinders to meet the needs of COVID patients and hospitals. 

According to the company, they have provided the critical resource to over 16 districts across Tamil Nadu and are focused on ramping up facilities to aid those in need. 

The plant has so far produced and dispatched medical oxygen to southern and western districts of Tamil Nadu. 

Besides the home district of Tuticorin, where the plant is located, Sterlite has supplied to Tirunelveli, Madurai, Thanjavur, Sivagangai, Namakkalm Kanyakumari, Theni, Virudhunagar, Tenkasi, Dharmapuri, Ranipet, Krishnagiri, Ramanathapuram, Karur, Salemand Dindigul. 

It was in late April that the once-shuttered Vedanta Sterlite Copper Smelter Plant was permitted to function by the Tamil Nadu Government, for the production of medical oxygen alone. 

With the consensus of major political parties in the State, Sterlite had been permitted to service and operate their Oxygen plant for 4 months, using electricity provided by the State Government. 

The parties also added that based on the COVID-19 situation and the requirement of oxygen, this time period may be extended. 

This decision to permit the plant’s operation comes with several conditions – no other unit within the plant will be allowed to operate, electricity will be suspended after the stipulated period and Copper or other products cannot be manufactured during these four months. 

In addition, Sterlite will not be permitted to use its power generation unit. 

In terms of security arrangements and confidence building among the local population, the Government had said that a team under the leadership of the District collector and Police officials, along with Government experts in oxygen manufacturing, local people, anti-Sterlite protestors, NGOs, and environmental experts will be deciding and monitoring oxygen production at the plant. 

At the start of the medical oxygen crisis is India, it was Sterlite which made an offer in the Supreme Court to provide for free nearly 1000MT oxygen from the Tuticorin plant. However, the State Government had then objected to it, much to the chagrin of the Chief justice who pointed out the dire situation of oxygen shortage in parts of the country.

The 4,00,000 tonne per annum Sterlite copper smelter plant has been operating in Tuticorin for over 25 years with a cumulative investment of about Rs 3,000 crore. H

owever, from the very start, the Sterlite copper smelter plant has been facing protests from the local people who allege that it pollutes the environment and affects their life.

The State government ordered the closure of the copper smelter plant in 2018, following a violent protest that led to the death of 13 persons in police firing.

The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal filed by the company against the Madras High Court’s refusal to reopen the plant.

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