Vedanta Names Copper Facility a ‘National Asset’ And Solicits Bids; Shares Fall

The metals and mining giant has issued a request for expressions of interest for the factory, which it claims produces 40% of India’s copper and employs thousands of people.

Vedanta has issued an EoI request for its Tuticorin-based smelter, which has been closed since mid-2018 due to a Tamil Nadu government injunction. The deadline for submitting EoI is July 4, and bids are being solicited in collaboration with Axis Capital.

The transaction includes plant components, such as an oxygen producing facility, as well as residential houses. The plant has been threatened with shutdown due to alleged violations of environmental regulations.

The metals and mining giant has issued a request for expressions of interest for the factory, which it claims produces 40% of India’s copper and employs thousands. It employed 5,000 people directly and another 25,000 indirectly at the time of its shutdown.

“The Tuticorin plant is a national treasure that supplies 40% of India’s copper demand and has contributed significantly to the country’s copper self-sufficiency. We are evaluating options to ensure that the facility and assets are optimally utilised to satisfy the nation’s expanding copper demand in the best interests of the country and the people of Tamil Nadu “In an official statement, Vedanta added.

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Is The Future of the Sterlite Factory in Jeopardy?

As imports rise and costs rise, pressure is increasing on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin to revive the Sterlite Copper facility.

Fisherwomen from the region’s coastal hamlets have petitioned district collector K Senthil Raj to reopen the facility, which was shut down in May 2018 after police fired on protestors demanding its closure, killing 13 people. More petitions have been delivered to the district collector.

The Thoothukudi Contractors’ Association is also pushing to revive the facility.

However, anti-Sterlite campaigners have also been vocal in calling for the plant’s permanent shutdown, claiming that it employed 20,000 people directly and indirectly, according to its owner Vedanta.

Protesters claim that the facility damaged the environment and endangered the health of those who lived nearby. The safety of the people living in the area cannot be jeopardised, according to G Stephen, a Thoothukud local who used to work at the facility.

Copper supply, which is characterised by increased imports and decreasing exports, is posing a threat to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim of a “Atmanirbhar Bharat.”

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Copper Prices are Rising Due to The Closure of a Plant

Minister of Mines, Coal, and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi informed the Lok Sabha in a written statement that India’s refined copper imports had more than tripled between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Exports dropped by more than 90% during that time, he claimed.

Refined copper imports jumped from 44,245 tonnes in 2017-18 to 92,990 tonnes in 2018-19 and 152,000 tonnes in 2019-20, according to Joshi. According to him, exports dropped from 378,000 tonnes in 2017-18 to 47,917 tonnes in 2018-19 and 36,959 tonnes in 2019-20.

“As a result, net imports of 44,373 tonnes and 115,005 tonnes were recorded in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively, compared to net exports of 334,310 tonnes in 2017-18,” according to the ministry.

The closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant in Thoothukudi, according to Joshi, has had an impact on domestic refined copper production. Copper production in the country fell to 410,000 tonnes in 2019-20 from 830,000 tonnes in 2017-18, according to Joshi, due to the closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant. In 2018-19, 450,000 tonnes of refined copper were produced.

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