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India copper plant shuts over possible gas leak

03 April 2013

Sterlite Industries (India) said on April 2 that Tamil Nadu authorities had ordered it to shut a copper smelter on March 30 over allegations of a gas leak. The smelter, the country’s biggest, produces more than 300,000 tonnes a year to supply half of India’s domestic copper needs.

Sterlite gave no details of when it expected to resume operations, but it will remain closed at least until a hearing on April 9 into the complaints.

The company said it would explain matters regarding emissions from the Tuticorin unit to the state regulator – the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

Sterlite, a unit of Vedanta Resources, has faced a lengthy legal battle over environmental concerns at the smelter plant in Tuticorin, with the first of many petitions against it filed in 1996. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Late last month, residents of Tuticorin complained of breathing problems and sore eyes and government officials suspected a sulphur dioxide leak at the smelter. The company denied that there had been a leak.

About 150 people were arrested after protests against the plant. There have been no reports of serious injuries caused by the suspected leak.

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