Chennai: Vedanda’s Sterlite Industries Ltd. has approached the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) with a fresh consent to operate its copper smelter plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi, chief executive officer P Ramnath said on Thursday.

The development comes less than a week after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) set aside the Tamil Nadu government’s order, clearing the way for the reopening of the copper unit.

“Our plant has not been under maintenance for over five months. We are still awaiting permission to enter the plant. Once that is granted, it will take about one to two months for the company to begin its operations," Ramnath said.

In the wake of the police firing on 22 and 23 May that killed 13 people protesting against the plant’s shutdown, the state government ordered a permanent closure of the copper smelting unit.

On Saturday, while passing its order, the NGT directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to pass fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, “subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks from today." “The appellant will also be entitled to restoration of electricity for its operations," the tribunal said.

Terming the closure “unjustifiable", the tribunal also directed Vedanta to spend 100 crore over the next three years for Thoothukudi’s “welfare activities."

Sterlite Industries also announced 100-crore investment on “infrastructure plans for Thoothukudi district," including planting of 1 million trees, construction of school, hospital, desalination plant and other youth development schemes.

Replying to a question on allegations against the Vedanta group’s public relations agency that it had accessed a draft of the NGT verdict before it was pronounced by the tribunal on 15 December, Ramanth claimed that the company was not aware of the same.

Fatima Babu, a Thoothukudi based environmental activist lodged a complaint on Monday, with the Delhi Police, alleging that “a document titled ‘Final Order of VEDANTA DRAFT ORDER – 15.12.2018.docx’ was in circulation in the media from around 1 pm on 15.12.2018, whereas the official order was only uploaded after 1.30 pm."

Meanwhile, Opposition parties, including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), will stage protests in Thoothukudi on Friday demanding the permanent closure of Sterlite Industries. The Opposition has also been pressurising the state government to convene the assembly and take a policy decision on the shutdown of the copper unit.

On its part, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government in Tamil Nadu has decided to move the Supreme Court challenging the NGT order.

Also read: Fear and loathing in troubled Thoothukudi

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