Chennai: The national green tribunal on Friday said it will constitute a committee to inspect the country’s largest copper smelter, run by Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
The members of the committee will be decided on 18 April, said judicial member M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendran of the national green tribunal.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the plant—which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year—on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions.
Sterlite, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources Plc., has said the plant’s emissions are within permissible limits.
On 1 April, Sterlite filed a petition with the national green tribunal challenging the order of the state pollution control board.
The committee will inspect and assess the state of the copper plant. It will give its report on or before 29 April. Only after the findings of committee are presented will the tribunal decide on the re-opening of the plant, Chockalingam said.
The unit should be open for monitoring but it can’t start resume commercial production, the tribunal said.
During the proceedings on Friday, the judicial member asked why the pollution control board waited for more than a week to shut the plant if it found toxic amounts of sulphur dioxide were released between 2am and 11am on 23 March.
The Supreme Court last week fined Sterlite Rs.100 crore for polluting the environment but set aside a 2010 directive of the Madras high court to permanently close the Tuticorin smelter on grounds of environmental concerns.
The apex court said its judgement would not stand in the way of the matter regarding the emissions.
Vaiko, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu-based political party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is one of three entities supporting the state pollution watchdog’s order to shut the Sterlite plant.
Sterlite shares ended unchanged at Rs.88.50 on BSE on Friday, while the benchmark Sensex fell 1.62% to 18,242.56 points.