| NEW DELHI, July 12
NEW DELHI, July 12 An environmental report into
India's biggest copper smelter found no major irregularities in
its operation or any negative impact on air quality during an
inspection, but calls for safety audits, regular maintenance and
better air quality monitoring.
The report, commissioned by the Indian environment court
considering whether Sterlite Industries' smelter
should remain in operation, will be used by Judge Swatanter
Kumar to reach a ruling. The case resumes on July 15.
India was forced to boost copper imports when the smelter,
which accounts for over half of the country's refined copper
output, was closed for more than two months from March 30, after
residents protested about of air pollution.
The plant, which produces 30,000 tonnes of copper per month,
re-opened on an interim court order on June 16.
The Indian smelter has long been the target of protesters
and politicians who call it a risk to fisheries in the coastal
town of Tuticorin, near the southern tip of India.
The court-commissioned environment report, seen by Reuters,
also called for a mechanism to inform residents near the plant
in the event of an accident.
On the issue of air quality, it said "not much inference can
be drawn as regard to the contribution of emissions from the
plant to the ambient air quality considering that the wind
velocity during the period (of inspection) was very high, which
helped in immediate dispersion of the pollutants".
It said sulphur dioxide emissions were within allowable
limits during the inspection period.
The company says the smelter, which has been operating at
fully capacity since it restarted, does not have emissions above
prescribed limits. Sterlite's parent Vedanta Resources Plc
is also exporting 4,000 tonnes of refined copper a month
from Dubai to India, the company source said.
Several cases have been filed against Sterlite since its
Indian smelter started in 1996. In a different case, India's top
court in April fined the company about $18 million for breaking
environmental laws at the smelter.
Sterlite, whose parent is controlled by billionaire Anil
Agarwal, has been waiting for government clearances to double
the capacity of the smelter to 800,000 tonnes a year.
India's cable makers such as Finolex Cables Ltd
and Precision Wires India Ltd have traditionally
bought copper from the two biggest producers, Sterlite and
Hindalco Industries Ltd.