May 28, 2018 / 12:45 PM / a month ago

CORRECTED-UPDATE 1-India closes Vedanta copper smelter permanently after bloody protest

(Corrects number in last line, adds dropped word in paragraph one)

By Sudarshan Varadhan

THOOTHUKUDI, India, May 28 (Reuters) - An Indian state on Monday ordered the permanent closure of a copper smelter run by London-listed Vedanta Resources after 13 people protesting to demand its shutdown on environmental concerns were killed last week.

“We have taken a decision to permanently shut down the plant and today issued government orders to do the same,” Edappadi K Palaniswami, chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu said in a statement after meeting officials, including from the pollution department.

Residents and environmental activists have long demanded a shutdown of the copper smelter, India’s second-biggest with an annual production of more than 400,000 tonnes, citing air and water pollution.

Vedanta has denied the accusations of pollution.

The chief of its India copper business, P. Ramnath, told Reuters on Friday the company would legally fight any attempt to close the plant and it aimed to “build our bridges” with the community.

The plant, in the coastal city of Thoothukudi, has been shut since late March for maintenance and pending a renewal of its licence, even as residents continued largely peaceful protests demanding it be shut for good.

The opposition escalated on Tuesday when thousands of people marched towards a government office on the 100th day of the protest. Ten people were killed in police firing that day; three more died in subsequent days.

Vedanta says it has already evacuated about 3,500 employees from the plant site due to the tension. (Additional reporting by Malini Menon Writing by Krishna N. Das Editing by Robert Birsel)

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