THOOTHUKUDI: As the three-month period granted by the Supreme Court to produce medical grade Oxygen at Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper premises ended, the copper smelter wound up its oxygen production late on Friday. The company has requested the State government to allot 2 MW electricity to keep the oxygen plant on standby.
At a time when the country was reeling under Oxygen shortage, the Supreme Court on April 27 granted permission to Sterlite Copper to produce Oxygen. The SC set up an oversight committee headed by collector and experts to look after the plant, and strictly instructed to operate only the oxygen plant on a stand alone basis.
The Copper Smelter was opened amid public protest since the order led to reopening of the unit which was closed permanently on May 28, 2018 following a public agitation that resulted in killing 13 civilians. Though Vedanta sought an extension of another six months, the court did not grant it.
In a press statement, Sterlite authorities said that the Oxygen plant will commence winding up operations in order to allow enough time for the defrosting process. “The application for extension of the facility for a period of 6 months has been listed to be heard by the SC on August 6, 2021,” it said.
The statement added that the copper major has so far been able to supply 2,132 tonnes and 7833nm³ of high purity, medical-grade oxygen to 32 districts in Tamil Nadu. A stock of 134 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen is stored on the plant premises. “Sterlite has requested the State government to allot 2MW electricity to keep the Oxygen plant on standby condition which is also essentially for dispatching the stock of Oxygen remaining in the plant,” the statement said.
Even though, the smelter claimed to step up its production capacity to 200 tonnes of medical grade Oxygen in 10 days after commencing the production, it was able to produce only 30 tonnes on an average. “We are optimistic of further orders from the Apex Court on resuming oxygen production,” Sterlite authorities said.
Meanwhile, Thoothukudi MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi endorsed the government stand that there is no Oxygen crisis in the State now. “Chief Minister Stalin has ordered to close the plant as promised during the election rallies,” she said, adding that Sterlite will be allowed to reopen the plant only if there is a crisis. On the possible onset of the third wave of COVID19, the MP said that the Chief Minister would not lead the State to such a situation.