In a bid to cater to rising demand of export markets Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Group plans to invest between Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,000 crore to double the capacity of its copper unit at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu to 8 lakh tonnes (LT) per annum.
Work on the expansion, which would start as soon as the company gets some pending clearances from the state, is likely to start towards early next year and will be completed in two years, R Ramnath, CEO, Strelite Copper, told FE.
During the April-June quarter of current fiscal, copper contributed around $700 million to Vedanta’s total revenue. The non-ferrous metal find application in sectors like power, telecom, consumer durables and electrical goods.
Sterlite Copper has a smelter, a refinery, phosphoric acid plant, sulphuric acid plant, copper rod plant and three captive power plants at Tuticorin. It also has a refinery and two copper rod plants at Silvassa (Dadra and Nagar Haveli).
Apart from India, Vedanta has copper smelting and mining operations in Australia and Zambia. In all, it produced 1,69,000 tonnes of finished copper in 2014-15. While the Indian and Australian copper businesses are directly held by Vedanta Ltd, a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources; the Zambian copper business (Konkola Copper Mines), which has mines in Konkola, Nchanga and Nampundwe, is 79.4% owned by it. It also owns a copper mine at Tasmania in Australia which provides a small percentage of the copper concentrate requirements of the Tuticorin smelter.
Ramnath said Sterlite Copper has already in possession 250 acres of land in the special economic zone near to the existing plant to carry out the expansion work at Tuticorin.
Vedanta is the second largest copper producer in the country with Aditya Birla Group firm Hindalco the largest having 5 lakh tonnes per annul capacity. State-run Hindustan Copper has 1 LT production capacity.
With almost no copper reserves, India imports 97% of the copper concentrate to produce finished products. Plagued with rising imports of finished products, domestic industry has recently urged the government to do away with the 2.5% import duty on copper concentrate.
Ramnath said Sterlite Copper is currently using 85-90% of its capacity and half of its produce is exported to China which consumes around 45% of the total refined copper produced in the world.
Presently, 21.8 MT refined copper is consumed globally in a year while the production is 21.9 MT.Vedanta’s enhanced capacity would also help India to enhance its share of global refined copper consumption which currently stands at just 2.5%.
India’s per capita copper consumption is just 500 gms per annum, which is just 5% that of China. As much as 56% of the copper in India is consumed by electrical and telecommunication sectors.
Ramnath said the company is yet to finalise the debt-equity ratio with which the proposed investment would be funded. Sterlite Copper has 1,200 employees on its payroll.