India’s Vedanta puts its closed copper smelter on the block

India’s Vedanta has invited bids for its Thoothukudi-based copper smelter that was shut by the government of the southern Tamil Nadu state following protests around environmental concerns raised by activists.

The last day to submit EoI is July 4, and the bids have been invited in conjunction with Axis Capital.

The Sterlite Copper plant, the mining and natural resources group said, accounted for 40 percent of India’s copper output and employed thousands. At the time of closure, it employed 5,000 people directly, and another 25,000 indirectly.

“The Tuticorin plant is a national asset which has been catering to 40 percent 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 utilized to meet growing copper demand of the nation,” Vedanta said in a statement.

The Minister of Mines, Coal and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi recently told parliament that India’s imports of refined copper had more than tripled between 2017-18 and 2019-20, while exports declined by over 90 percent during the same period.

Refined copper imports increased from 44,245 tonnes in 2017-18 to 92,990 tonnes during 2018-19 and 152,000 tonnes in 2019-20, the minister said in a written reply to a questions, adding that exports fell from 378,000 tonnes in 2017-18 to 47,917 tonnes in 2018-19 and 36,959 tonnes in 2019-20.

“Consequently, there was a net import of 44,373 tonnes and 115,005 tonnes in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively, against net exports of 334,310 tonnes in 2017-18,” the minister said.

According to Joshi, the closure of the copper smelter in Thoothukudi had dented domestic refined copper production that fell to 410,000 tonnes in 2019-20 from 830,000 tonnes in 2017-18.

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