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Four years after 13 protesters were killed in alleged police firing at its sterlite copper unit in Tamil Nadu, India's metal and mining conglomerate Vedanta has decided to put it on sale. In conjunction with Axis Capital, the company has invited Expressions of Interest (EoI) for its Thoothukudi-based smelter. Interested buyers have time till July 4, 6pm to submit their bids, company stated.

Sterlite Copper Plant facilities like Copper Refinery, Copper Rod plant, Sulphuric Acid Plant, oxygen generation unit and residential complex have been put up for sale.  The metals and mining conglomerate has posted an advertisement inviting EoIs by July 4 for the plant, which it said accounted for 40 percent of India’s copper output and employed thousands. At the time of closure, it employed 5,000 people directly, and another 25,000 indirectly.

Vedanta's Expressions of Interest for the sale of its smelter and refining complex situated in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu
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Vedanta's Expressions of Interest for the sale of its smelter and refining complex situated in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu

Vedanta's controversial 400,000 tonnes per annum copper smelter in city of Thoothukudi has been shut since May 2018, a week after the deadly protests that sought the plant's closure for alleged pollution. The incident was also condemned by a working group of United Nations' human rights experts for the "excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force by police".

Vedanta, which has repeatedly denied allegations of the smelter being polluting, has challenged Tamil Nadu state's decision to permanently shut the smelter at the Supreme Court. The smelter was operated by its unit Sterlite Copper. It is not clear when the Supreme Court will hear the case.

The company, controlled by billionaire Anil Agarwal, had said in March 2021 it was looking for a state government partner to set up a new, 100 billion rupees ($1.37 billion) copper smelter.

The proposed 500,000 tonnes per annum copper smelter could employ as many as 10,000 people, Vedanta said, adding that it was looking for a 1000-acre site close to a port. It is not immediately clear if the proposal received any interest. 

Shares of Vedanta fell as much as 14% to 227.60 and are trading at a 52-week low.

 

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