Sterlite closes copper smelter on court order; stocks dip

Sterlite closes copper smelter on court order; stocks dip

New Delhi: Vedanta-owned Sterlite Industries has closed its Tuticorin copper smelter in south India after a court order, sending its shares down 8%.

The plant produced 334,202 tonnes of copper cathode in the year to March 2010, according to government data. Reuters data shows it is the world’s ninth-biggest smelter.

The Economic Times newspaper had earlier reported the Madras High Court order said the unit’s activities would result in a rise in pollution levels and affect workers at the copper smelting plant at Tuticorin.

“Our lawyers are looking at the order. We are considering what steps to take," a spokesman for Sterlite Industries said. Sterlite said in a statement the smelter “has been in compliance with the necessary rules and regulations."

Under Indian law, Sterlite could appeal the High Court order in the Supreme Court.

Shares in Sterlite were down 7.31% to Rs163.60 by 11:16am, after falling as low as Rs162. The main stock index was down 0.39%.

London-listed Vedanta, whose business focuses on India, has already run into obstacles in other projects in the country.

The Indian government rejected its plans to mine bauxite in Orissa over environmental concerns and at the beginning of this month the environment ministry said it had found “serious violations" of green laws at its alumina refinery in eastern India.

Vedanta is also trying to push through a $9.5 billion acquisition of a major stake in Cairn India, a unit of London-listed Cairn Energy.

India’s environment ministry is taking an increasingly proactive stance on projects and tightening rules on existing mines and plants in the country, which is gobbling up resources to feed economic growth of around 8 percent per year.

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