Mining group Vedanta rocked by killing of protesters demanding plant closure in India

Oscar Lopez
Protesters in India burn an effigy of Vedanta boss Anil Agarawal. (Source: Getty)

UK metals and mining group Vedanta Resources is facing harsh criticism after 13 people were killed while protesting a copper smelter run by the company in India’s Tamil Nadu state.

On Tuesday, police opened fire on protesters who were demanding that the smelter in the port city of Thoothukudi be shut down on environmental grounds.

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Officials in Tamil Nadu state are now seeking the plant’s permanent closure.

“The government’s position is very clear, it doesn’t want the plant to run,” said Sandeep Nanduri, the top official of the district where the plant is located.

On Wednesday, the Madras High Court halted the copper smelter's expansion, and the following day, local authorities cut power to the plant.

Residents and environmental advocates say emissions from the smelter, India’s second biggest, are polluting the air and water, affecting people’s health.

Vedanta, which is London-listed, has seen its share price tumbled 16 per cent since Wednesday.

Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell has called for the company to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

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"After the massacre of the protestors this week, regulators must now take action,” said McDonnell in a statement.

“Vedanta must be immediately delisted from the London Stock Exchange to remove its cloak of respectability, restore confidence in the governance of the Stock Exchange, and prevent further reputational damage to London's financial markets from this rogue corporation."

A Vedanta spokesperson said:

“It is with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed the tragic incidents around the protest at Tuticorin. The company is working with the relevant authorities to ensure the safety of our employees, facilities and the surrounding community. The Sterlite Copper plant is currently non-operational and we will maintain an open dialogue with all of our stakeholders as we await approval for the consent to operate.

“Vedanta Resources has been committed to operating as a responsible business to the highest international standards of sustainability and corporate governance. We are focused on minimising our environmental impact by achieving zero harm, zero waste, zero discharge and promoting social inclusion across our operations.”

The LSE declined to comment.

Vedanta, which has interests from oil to aluminium, is run by billionaire Anil Agarwal.

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