CHENNAI: Despite public backlash and a Madurai Bench of Madras High Court order stopping the construction of a new copper smelter, Vedanta Limited has drawn grand plans to expand its copper smelter operations in Thoothukudi.
In its Annual Report for financial year 2017-18, which will be filed with the Bombay Stock Exchange after it is adopted by the shareholders in the upcoming Annual General Meeting on August 24, GR Arun Kumar, who is the Whole Time Director and Chief Financial Officer, Vedanta Limited, said, “We are continuing our Tuticorin II expansion by four lakh tonnes per annum (TPA). When complete (target: FY2020), we will be one of the world’s largest single-location copper smelters.”
This comes a week after Sterlite Copper CEO P Ramnath, writing a letter to Union Environment Ministry seeking its support to renew the Consent to Operate (CTO) of the existing plant at Thoothukudi and environment clearance for second unit. Interestingly, at the same time, in Lok Sabha, Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan revealed that Sterlite had made an application on February 14 this year seeking fresh Terms of Reference for preparation of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report for expansion proposal, which is under consideration.
The annual report says Vedanta, with its four lakh TPA custom smelter in Southern India, is the market leader in the country with a market share of refined copper of approximately 33 per cent. Copper India’s exports accounted for 49 per cent of overall sales in FY2018 and were mainly to China and South East Asia.
“We expect to see continued demand in growth in India and China in the coming years, driven by population growth, urbanisation, the rise of the middle class and support from government measures and initiatives. Additionally, demand for copper products feeding the electronics and automotive industries will support solid growth in the short to medium-term in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan... Our smelter capacity expansion projects in Tuticorin will enable us to take advantage of these opportunities,” it says, making no bones about the expansion plans.
Vedanta has also made an appeal to communities living around the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi not to get driven by misinformation. The report notes that Sterlite Copper-Tuticorin received the British Safety Council’s Five Star Rating and also secured its Sword of Honour recognition. In the director’s report, Vedanta once again reiterated that the company was taking all necessary steps to restart the construction of second unit.