India’s green court to issue judgment on Vedanta smelter next week

India’s environmental court said it will issue its judgment in one week on whether to allow Vedanta Ltd to re-open its copper smelter in Tamil Nadu, which was closed earlier this year after 13 people died when police fired on protesters.

A panel of experts set up by India’s National Green Tribunal, informally known as the environmental court, in November said authorities in Tamil Nadu state failed to comply with procedures before shutting down the smelter.

A judgment on the smelter will be uploaded on the court’s website in a week’s time, Adarsh Kumar Goel, chairman of the National Green Tribunal, said earlier this week.

There will be no further hearings on the case, he said. Resuming production is crucial to Vedanta as it faces rising costs and the impact of a slowing economy on demand for metals and energy.

Last week, a lawyer for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, questioned the power of the expert panel to decide that the ban on the smelter in the southern town of Thoothukudi should be lifted.

State authorities had shut down the Tamil Nadu plant in May after police fired on protesters calling for its closure over concerns it was polluting air and water.

Vedanta’s lawyer told the court the company would invest Rs.100 crores ($14 million) to build hospitals and schools for people living close to the smelter.

The smelter is one of the two largest in India. Resuming production is crucial to Vedanta as it faces rising costs and the impact of a slowing economy on demand for metals and energy.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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