* Sees India refined copper consumption around 650,000 T in 2018
* Shipments from ASEAN, Japan to fill void left by Vedanta -CEO
* Sees import reliance up to 41 pct from previous 28 pct (Adds comment from CEO interview, industry details)
By Tom Daly
SHANGHAI, Nov 15 (Reuters) - India’s refined copper consumption is set to more than double over the next eight years amid rising demand from the power, auto and consumer sectors, the chief executive of one of the country’s top copper smelters said on Thursday.
The nation’s consumption of the metal is expected to rise to 1.433 million tonnes by 2026 from around 650,000 tonnes in 2018, Birla Copper Chief Executive Officer J.C. Laddha told delegates at the Asia Copper Conference in Shanghai.
However, he added that this projection did not include the boost copper may receive from a boom in copper-intensive electric vehicles.
“If you add that, I think by 2026 the total consumption would be 2.5 million tonnes,” Laddha said.
Birla Copper, a unit of Hindalco Industries, has around 430,000 tonnes per year of copper smelting capacity in India’s western state of Gujarat.
“India’s demand for overall copper has risen rapidly over the years and is expected to rise further as a result of various projects like ‘Make in India’ (and) infrastructure investment,” Laddha said.
The government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative is a campaign to boost foreign direct investment into the country.
At a capacity utilisation rate of 80 percent, Indian smelters would be able to produce 843,000 tonnes of refined copper this year, Laddha said, versus projected demand of 642,000 tonnes.
But that figure does not take into account the shutdown of Vedanta Ltd’s 400,000 tonne per year copper smelter in May, Laddha later told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.
The smelter was closed after the Tamil Nadu state government cut power supply to the unit following violent protests over alleged pollution that resulted in the death of 13 people in police firing.
Vedanta has denied that the plant, India’s second-biggest copper smelter, located in the port city of Thoothukudi, pollutes the area.
India’s refined copper production is set to shrink to 450,000 tonnes in 2019, versus demand of 700,000 tonnes, Laddha said, noting that the void would be filled by imports.
“That will be brought in from ASEAN countries and Japan, mostly from ASEAN because we have a free trade agreement,” meaning zero duty on imports, Laddha said, putting the share of imports at 41 percent currently, versus 28 percent before. (Reporting by Tom Daly Editing by Joseph Radford)