The Madurai bench of the Madras high court has issued a notice to Vedanta over the “remediation” of contaminated sites within its controversial copper smelter unit in Tuticorin, Sterlite Copper.
The court issued the notice while hearing a PIL filed by Tuticorin-based social activist Fathima Babu, which demanded that Vedanta should remove contaminated materials within the copper smelter.
In her petition, Babu demanded that Vedanta
should remove all contaminated materials dumped in and around the plant at the time of its controversy-ridden operations. Sterlite Copper’s operations in Tuticorin were met with several protests and demonstrations, until the unit was forced to shut on directions of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).
Several Tuticorin locals, social and environmental activists had alleged that Vedanta
’s Sterlite Copper plant was causing widespread and severe pollution in Tuticorin, owing to which locals suffered from grave diseases like cancer.
The TNPCB issued closure orders in May 2018 after 13 locals died in police firing during a protest. Vedanta’s appeal against the closure was overturned by the Madras High Court and is presently pending with the Supreme Court.
At the hearing of Babu’s PIL today, Vedanta’s counsel had argued that there was no need for any remediation of contaminated spaces since the fate of Sterlite Copper’s operations itself was sub-judice, and pending before the apex court.
“We argued that irrespective of the outcome of the Supreme Court hearing, there needed to be remediation or clearing up of contaminated materials that were dumped during the operations of Sterlite Copper, as these could still be loaded with arsenic,” said Babu, speaking to CNBC-TV18.
On hearing both sides, the Madurai Bench decided to issue a notice to Vedanta, allowing the mining major, five weeks’ time to respond. The matter has been listed for hearing in late September. Vedanta’s share price saw a 10.05 percent fall in trade today, as the stock closed the day at Rs 302.65 a share — 33.80 points below its previous close.