NEW DELHI/THOOTHUKUDI: At a time when the country is facing an acute shortage of oxygen to treat Covid patients, mining firm Vedanta on Thursday filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to reopen its Thoothukudi copper smelter plant to manufacture oxygen. The unit in Thoothukudi has two plants that can produce a total of 1,050 tonnes of medical oxygen per day.
Appearing for Vedanta, senior advocate Harish Salve said that if the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi is allowed to restart, it can save lives. “We want this permission only to start the oxygen plant. And we will supply it free of cost. Give us the permission today and we can start producing it in 5-6 days,” Salve said.
Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan, who represented the State government, said there was a trust deficit with Vedanta and added that the violations for which the plant was shut cannot be ignored. The State government opposed any urgent hearing of Vedanta’s plea.
According to Sterlite authorities, the firm’s oxygen plants were operational till March 25, 2018, and their present condition could not be ascertained as the court had restricted technical experts from entering the premises. The oxygen plants were used to support combustion in the smelter process. The plant will need a thorough check and overhaul before being commissioned for any operations, which may take a few weeks, the authorities said.
Aligned with govt’s efforts: Vedanta Group
As for the anti-Sterlite activists, the Thoothukudi administration called them for a public hearing on the Collectorate campus on April 23. Meanwhile, Vedanta Group, in a statement, said it has aligned with the government’s initiatives to supplement its efforts in tackling the pandemic.
The group’s companies Hindustan Zinc Ltd and ESL have stepped in to augment the oxygen supply as part of its Vedanta Cares initiative. HZL has supplied 1,500 litres of industrial oxygen to the Udaipur health administration.
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The company said it is supplying five tonnes (100 per cent of liquid oxygen capacity) of medical oxygen per day, and will increase it by 2-3 tonnes per day. ESL has committed to supplying up to 10 MT of oxygen daily, based on the steel ministry’s requirement, the firm said. “Now that the country is facing an acute shortage, our businesses are doing all that is possible to ramp up supplies,” Vedanta Group CEO Sunil Duggal said.