The CEO of Sterlite Copper (copper smelter unit) Pankaj Kumar has quit Vedanta Ltd for personal reasons, said an official.

The controversial 4 lakh ton per annum (tpa) copper smelter plant is located in Thoothukudi and was shut down in 2018 by the Tamil Nadu government.

The unit was allowed by the Supreme Court to produce oxygen to supply to the hospitals as the Covid-19 pandemic is raging.

According to a senior official of Sterlite Copper, Kumar has put in his papers.

However, Kumar was not available for comments.

Whether Kumar’s quitting has to do anything with Vedanta’s decision to set up a 5 lakh tpa copper smelter plant in a coastal region in India is not known.

Vedanta had in March 2021 sought expression of interest from coastal states wishing to partner in the project that would have an investment potential of about Rs 10,000 crore through a newspaper advertisement on Wednesday.

According to Vedanta, the proposed project would need about 1,000 acre in proximity to port along with logistics connectivity with conveyor/corridor of rail and road to handle five million tpa material movement on both in-bound and out-bound sides.

The company said the project has a potential to provide direct and indirect employment to 10,000 people and will contribute about Rs 3,000 crore to the government treasury as taxes and others.

The company is silent on the query whether it is planning to shift its 400,000 tpa copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi — that has been shut down by Tamil Nadu government.

The Sterlite Copper smelter plant has been operating in Thoothukudi for over 25 years with a cumulative investment of about Rs 3,000 crore.

However, from the start, the Sterlite Copper smelter plant has been facing protests by the local people alleging that it pollutes the environment.

Originally the plant was planned in Goa but it faced severe opposition from the state’s people. However, the AIADMK regime under J. Jayalalithaa gave a warm welcome to the project and allotted land at Thoothukudi.

Ever since then the plant was in the eye of a storm with MDMK leader Vaiko leading a protest against the project and later filing a case.

The major political parties in Tamil Nadu – AIADMK and DMK – are against Vedanta’s copper smelter plant.

The ruling DMK had announced that it would not allow the Sterlite Copper to function and would be shut down permanently.

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