Three years back in March 2018, a few China-supported environmental NGOs and the local churches collaborated to protest against Sterlite Copper, a subsidiary of Vedanta Limited which produced more than 40 per cent of India’s copper and played a crucial role in meeting domestic demands. In the aftermath of the anti-Sterlite protests and the closure of Vedanta’s plant, 38 per cent of the country’s copper demand is being met through imports from foreign firms.
However, instead of backing down, Vedanta has once again risen and has called for expressions of interest (EOIs) from state governments down South for setting up a copper smelter unit in a coastal area. The new copper smelter plant is expected to be built at a cost of around Rs 10,000 crores, according to a report by Business Standard. The mega project will provide direct and indirect employment to 10,000 people and will contribute around Rs 3,000 crore to the exchequer annually.
“We are, therefore, actively on the lookout for a suitable partner state to help take forward the vision of an Atmanirbhar Bharat. We want to ensure that our nation enjoys unfettered access to copper, through a state of the art manufacturing plant. The operational and environmental parameters of this will be comparable to the best in the world.” said one of Vedanta’s spokesman.
According to domain experts, amongst the states near the coastal areas having a pro-industry government, Odisha under Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is being touted as the next destination for Vedanta. Patnaik is known for his willingness to work with the manufacturers and industry giants and thus if he plays his cards right, the billion-dollar opportunity of having a plant of one of the most lucrative products needed for new-gen technologies such as electric vehicles and clean energy, i.e. ‘Copper’ might just land in his state. Patnaik’s no-fuss image of being a clean, corruption-free leader also plays in Odisha’s hands.
Moreover, the fact that Odisha has cheap labour in abundance, along with the raw materials can be an added advantage going forward. Thus Patnaik needs to raise his hands and at the earliest submit the EOI.
As reported by TFI, India became a net importer of copper from being a net exporter- due to the anti-Sterlite protests. Sterlite manufacturing unit in Tamil Nadu was a milking cow for the company, generating a significant chunk of revenue for the metals and mining conglomerate. However, the company has been losing Rs 5 crore daily, since the plant was shut down and such has been the condition of Vedanta Resources that Anil Agarwal, the founder and Chairperson, had to pledge all of his shares to an American asset management firm, OCM Verde Investment, to secure a loan to repay its debts.
The new plant is the way out for the company and hopefully, the states rise up and give the company another chance.