By Krishna N Das
NEW DELHI, June 14 India's biggest copper
smelter is likely to re-open on Sunday after a two-month
shutdown which was prompted by complaints from nearby residents
about its emissions and has caused tightness in supply of the
A company source told Reuters on Friday that power for the
smelter, which is run by Sterlite Industries, a unit
of London-listed Vedanta, had been turned on.
This source and one from the local pollution board said a
court-appointed panel would visit the smelter on Sunday and the
plant would re-open then.
The smelter, in the Tuticorin area of the southern Tamil
Nadu state, was shut on March 30 after local people complained
of breathing problems.
The company has denied there were any emissions above
An environmental court said on May 31 it could re-open but
opposition to this has continued.
The Supreme Court said on June 10 the smelter could resume
as scheduled. A court had earlier stipulated that this should
happen in the presence of an expert panel, ahead of a hearing
for an appeal against its re-start.
Sterlite produces 30,000 tonnes of refined copper a month,
or more than half of India's total production.
The smelter's closure had squeezed domestic supplies and
boosted imports and prices, and the reopening will come as a
relief to cable makers such as Finolex Cables Ltd and
Precision Wires India Ltd.
But it will further deplete already tight global stocks of
copper concentrate, which is produced by mines and sold to
smelters and refiners who treat the ore and refine the copper.
A string of mine accidents including a tunnel collapse at
Indonesia's huge Grasberg mine and a rock slide at Rio Tinto's
operations in Utah have resulted in a scramble
"Sterlite reopening is one more addition to a gradually
tightening copper concentrate market," Natixis analyst Nic Brown
Global miners pay treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs)
to smelters to convert concentrate into refined metal, with the
charges deducted from the sale price, based on London Metal
Exchange (LME) copper prices.
When concentrate supply is tight smelters have to compete
for the work and TC/RCs tend to fall.
"We're seeing evidence of TC/RCs starting to come down. It's
a clear indicator the concentrates market is tightening," Brown
The shortfall in concentrate supply has helped to underpin
benchmark LME copper, which was up 0.4 percent on