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India: Sterlite's copper plant to reopen despite opposition by government, protestors

sterlite-private-security-copper-stands-industries-tuticorin_Credit_Reuters via Business Today.jpg

In May 2018, 13 people were killed in a police firing during protests against Sterlite Industries Ltd.’s copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu. Sterlite is a subsidiary of U.K.-based Vedanta Resources. The protestors were marching against planned expansions of the plant, raising significant human rights and environmental concerns relating to Sterlite’s operations. 

Prior to the killings, Indian officials had ordered the closure of the plant due to concerns about environmental protection and protests. This order was overturned by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in November 2018. In January 2019, the government of Tamil Nadu requested that the Supreme Court halt the NGT’s order for lack of jurisdiction. The Supreme Court denied the government's request, paving the way for the reopening of the plant. 

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Article
25 February 2019

India: Activists urge government for the safe return of missing environmentalist

Author: Scroll.in, India

"Sterlite protests: Activists urge TN government to ensure safe return of environmentalist S Mugilan", 23 February 2019

Several activists and academics on Saturday [23 February] wrote to the Tamil Nadu government expressing their concern for the safety of an environmental rights activist who went missing a week ago.

S Mugilan reportedly “disappeared” after he addressed a press conference in Chennai on February 15. He had accused senior police officials of orchestrating violence in Thoothukudi during last year’s anti-Sterlite protests, in which at least 13 people were killed in police firing.

“We are writing to urge you to ensure the safe return of Mr Mugilan...,” the letter addressed to the Tamil Nadu chief secretary and other senior police officers said...Mugilan’s abrupt disappearance and the silence of the state government raise grave concerns about the state of civil liberties and human rights in Tamil Nadu, said the letter...

At the press conference, Mugilan had alleged that the police, in connivance with the management of Sterlite, were behind the violence that took place on May 22. He specifically named Indian Police Service officers...Amnesty India [has] demanded that state authorities initiate an investigation to find him...

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Article
21 February 2019

India: Sterlite responds to Supreme Court's order to keep copper plant shut

Author: Press Trust of India (PTI), NDTV

"'Will decide way forward': Sterlite plant on top court's order to keep it shut", 19 February 2019

Sterlite Copper on [18 February] said it would go through in detail the Supreme Court order, setting aside the NGT directive to reopen its plant at Tuticorin and consult its legal team before deciding on the future course of action.

The Supreme court refused to allow reopening of Vedanta's Sterlite plant, which was at the centre of massive protests over pollution concerns, but granted it liberty to approach the Madras High Court against the Tamil Nadu government's order to shut it down...

Tuticorin district collector...welcomed the judgement and said the plant would remain shut as per the government's decision...An activist of the anti-Sterlite movement, welcoming the top court order...said it has brought ''relief and solace'' to people in Tuticorin.

Those in favour of the company being reopened however said they would collectively move the Madras High Court...Tuticorin Contractors Association President...said the top court verdict was an "unexpected decision". "We are all locals and have not experienced anything like what has been alleged...". [He also] said those dependent on the plant have suffered a lot...

At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 last year when police had opened fire on a huge crowd of people, protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the factory. The Tamil Nadu government had...ordered the state pollution control board to seal and "permanently" close the mining group's copper plant following [the] violent protests...

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Article
21 February 2019

India: Supreme Court refuses to allow reopening of Sterlite plant

Author: The Times of India

"Supreme Court refuses to allow reopening of Sterlite plant", 18 February 2019

The Supreme Court on [18 February] set aside an order by an environmental court which had cleared the way for reopening Vedanta's copper smelter, in a blow to the company's plans to begin operations. 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had on December 15 directed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Borad (TNPCB) to pass a fresh order allowing renewal of consent for the operation of the plant within three weeks...

On January 31, the Vedanta group whose Sterlite Copper smelting plant has been shut down since May 28, 2018 told the Supreme Court that they were being harassed and their image being besmirched by the Tamil Nadu government. Vedanta said that the pollution report that was shown to the court was six months after the plant was put under lock...

The government of Tamil Nadu ordered the smelter shut permanently in May after violent protests at the plant in Tuitcorin in which 13 people were killed...

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Article
7 January 2019

India: Tamil Nadu State government files petition in Supreme Court against environmental tribunal's order to reopen Sterlite's copper plant

Author: Hindustan Times, India

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Article
7 January 2019

India: Supreme Court refuses to halt environmental tribunal's order to reopen Sterlite’s plant in Tamil Nadu

Author: Priyanka Mittal, Livemint, India

"SC refuses to stay NGT order to reopen Sterlite’s plant in Tamil Nadu", 8 January 2019

The Supreme Court on Tuesday [8 January] refused to stay an order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that had paved way for reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite Industries Ltd’s copper smelter plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi...

The plea [brought by the State of Tamil Nadu]...sought that the NGT order be set aside as it was “erroneous” and passed without application of mind towards the evidence furnished by the Tamil Nadu government to show that Vedanta had polluted the ground water...

On 15 December, the environment tribunal ordered the reopening of Vedanta's copper smelter plan, months after the smelter was shut by the Tamil Nadu government over alleged pollution, which led to violent protests and culminated in police opening fire on demonstrators and killing 13...

While ordering the closure of the Sterlite unit, the Tamil Nadu government had stated that it endorsed the closure direction of the [Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board]TNPCB, and also directed the board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently under...the Water Act, 1974, “in the larger public interest.”

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