New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to hear on 17 August the plea of the Tamil Nadu government challenging an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) allowing mining major Vedanta access to the administrative unit inside its closed Sterlite copper plant at Thoothukudi in the state. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justice A.M. Khanwilkar considered the submission of the state government and posted its plea for hearing on 17 August.

The NGT had on August 9 allowed Vedanta to enter its administrative unit inside its Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi, observing that no environmental damage would be caused by allowing access to the administrative section. The tribunal, however, had said that the plant would remain closed and the company would not have access to its production unit and directed the district magistrate to ensure this.

The Tamil Nadu government had on 28 May ordered the state pollution control board to seal and “permanently" close the mining group’s copper plant following violent protests over environmental concerns.

Sterlite’s factory had made the headlines in March 2013 when a gas leak led to the death of one person and injuries to several others, after which then chief minister J. Jayalalithaa had ordered its closure. The company had then appealed to the NGT, which had overturned the government order.

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The state government had then moved the Supreme Court and the case is pending. The Supreme Court has ordered the company to pay 100 crore as compensation for polluting the environment.

Following protests and police firing, the Sterlite copper plant was closed on 27 March. After Sterlite announced its plans to expand the Thoothukudi plant, villagers around it started fresh protests that continued for over 100 days, culminating in the 22 May police firing on protestors that claimed 13 lives and left scores injured.

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