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Sterlite copper smelter plant in Tuticorin shut down following PCB closure notice

March 30, 2013

V Mayilvaganan
Times of India

TUTICORIN: The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on Saturday issued a closure notice to the controversy-dogged Sterlite Copper Smelting Unit in Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu, forcing it to shut down. The Board's closure notice comes in the wake of "unsatisfactory" explanation to the show cause notice issued by district collector Ashish Kumar, after a suspected sulphur di-oxide leak from the Sterlite plant on March 23.

Soon after receiving TNPCB's order, the district administration officials snapped power supply from the Meelavittan sub-station to Sterlite plant from late Friday. On Saturday morning, a team of officials led by Tuticorin revenue divisional officer Latha visited the plant and served the closure notice. Sterlite authorities had initially resisted the closure move stating that the plant cannot be shut down all of a sudden and the controlling units could be switched off only in three phases. The officials were also in for a shock as the plant was functioning even after the power supply was suspended as it was receiving electricity from a Sterlite's owned sub-station in Meelavittan. But after a strict warning to adhere to the closure notice, Sterlite authorities shut down all operations immediately.

The closure of the plant sparked a celebration across Tutucorin as people distributed sweets and set off fireworks in Rajaji Park, the site of the massive protest on March 28. But Sterlite has been maintaining that on March 23 when the gas leak incident happened, Sterlite was shut down. "Our emissions are within permissible limits. There are no violations of pollution norms on our part," said a Sterlite spokesperson on Saturday.

But, district administration authorities said the plant has exceeded permissible limits of sulphur di-oxide emissions. On March 23, following the gas leak, residents in and around the plant suffered irritation in the eyes, sore throat and suffocation. MDMK leader Vaiko who is staging a legal battle for the closure of the plant has welcomed and demanded that it be permanently closed.

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