International Copper Association hails NGT’s Sterlite order

The Sterlite plant closure under pressure from Church-backed NGOs had impacted copper-consuming industries: consumer goods, electronic goods and automobile

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Sterlite, copper, Tuticorin

New Delhi: Industry body International Copper Association (ICA) India Monday said it welcomed the NGT order that allowed the reopening of Sterlite Copper’s Tuticorin plant. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Saturday had set aside the Tamil Nadu government order for closure of the copper unit at Tuticorin, which was at the centre of massive protests over alleged pollution.

The foreign-funded NGOs backed by the Church alleged the plant was “non-sustainable” and “unjustified”.

In May, the Tamil Nadu government had ordered permanent closure of the company’s copper unit after 13 people, among protesters, demanding its shutdown on environmental concerns, were killed in police firing. Sterlite Copper had challenged the order in the NGT.

“It is a very positive move. We welcome the order. Due to the closure the import and prices of copper had gone up,” Sanjeev Ranjan, ICA India managing director said.

The closure of the Sterlite plant had adversely impacted copper consuming industries like consumer goods, electrical and electronics, automobile, and players were bound to import the metal, Ranjan said.

The ICA believes the reopening of the smelter unit will bring relief to the downstream and ancillary industry, the MD added.

Due to the closure, domestic chemical and fertilisers industry was impacted, Ranjan said. Sterlite Copper’s 4,00,000 tonne per annum plant in Tuticorin met over 30% of India’s copper demand. It produced sulphuric and phosphoric acids too as by-products, which are the key raw materials for manufacturing of fertiliser, the company said.

The company said “due to the shutdown in the last six months… the import of the metal (copper) has seen a surge. While premium on copper has gone up by 10-15%, the import of the metal has shot up 2.5 times to nearly 30,000 tonnes per month”.

The closure led to a spike in the prices of phosphoric and sulphuric acids, adversely affecting the downstream chemical and fertilisers industry, the company noted.

“The plant met 80-90% of demand for sulphuric acid in the country and 15% of the phosphoric acid demand. The closure of our plant has led to a sharp surge in demand, thereby driving up prices,” company CEO P Ramnath said.

In the last six months, prices of sulphuric acid have shot up from Rs 3,000 a tonne to Rs 12,000 per tonne, and a tonne of phosphoric acid costs Rs 53,000 as compared to Rs 43,000 a tonne six month earlier, a rise of 23%, Ramnath said.