Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta has put on sale its Sterlite copper smelting plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu and has invited expression of interest (EoI) from potential buyers. The plant has been shut for the last four years (May 2018) after 13 people were killed and 102 left injured in a police firing during a protest against the expansion of the unit. The Tamil Nadu government had shut the plant over environment concerns and efforts by the company to reopen it has been facing hurdles. It is likely that Vedanta would set up a new plant in some other state.
Vedanta has invited EoI in conjunction with Axis Capital and the last day to submit bids is July 4.
“The Tuticorin plant is a national asset, which has been catering to 40% of our national demand of copper, and has played an integral role towards India’s self-sufficiency in copper. In the best interest of country and the people of Tamil Nadu, we are exploring options to make sure that the plant and the assets are best utilised to meet growing copper demand of the nation,” Vedanta said in a statement on Monday.
According to the advertisement seeking EoI, the smelter complex (primary and secondary), sulphuric acid plant, copper refinery, continous copper rod plant, phosphoric acid plant, effluent treatment plant, captive power plant, RO units, oxygen generation unit and residential complex have been put on sale.
Vedanta said that the plant contributes around Rs 2,500 crore to the exchequer, 12% of Tuticorin port’s revenue, a 95% market share for sulphuric acid in Tamil Nadu, direct employment to 5,000 people and another 25,000 indirectly through the value chain. The Sterlite Copper plant has an installed capacity of 4,00,000 MTPA of integrated copper smelter and refinery, with another 4,00,000 MTPA in expansion.
Vedanta claimed that the plant meets the highest standards of ESG and environment standards compared to global peers. The plant plays a vital role in meeting the growing domestic demand of copper and meeting India’s commitment to a green economy, it said in the advertisement.
Vedanta had challenged the closure of the plant in the Madras High Court. However, the court refused its reopening and an appeal against the HC’s order is currently pending in the Supreme Court. Vedanta said that it has invested over Rs 3,000 crore in the plant and has lost Rs 4,000 crore since its shutdown.
The plant had reopened briefly in 2021 to supply oxygen to medical institutions, when there was an acute shortage of oxygen amid the Covid-19 pandemic.