India cuts power to smelter after deadly anti-pollution protests


THOOTHUKUDI: Indian authorities on Thursday cut the power to a large copper smelter run by London-listed Vedanta Resources after police shot and killed 13 people in protests against what they say is pollution generated by the plant.
The pollution control board of the southern state of Tamil Nadu said the smelter, which was shut pending renewal of its operating license, was found last week to be carrying out activity to resume production without permission.
“The issue of renewal of consent for the year 2018-2023 has been rejected … due to non compliance of certain conditions,” the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) said in an order dated Wednesday.
It did not elaborate on the conditions the smelter had not met but said it “shall be disconnected with power supply and closed with immediate effect”. The agency told Vedanta it could not resume operations without permission.
On Tuesday, police opened fire on protesters demanding that the smelter in the port city of Thoothukudi be shut down. In all, 13 protests have been killed this week. Residents and environmental activists say emissions from the plant, India’s second biggest, are polluting the air and water, affecting people’s health.
The plant has been shut for more than 50 days and had been ordered to stay closed until at least June 6, pending environmental clearances. Vedanta has denied that the smelter has been polluting the air and water.
Reuters has sought comment from the company over the allegation that it was trying to resume production but company spokesman were not immediately available for comment.