Vedanta Copper Smelter May Shut Till 2019, Investors Edgy: Foreign Media

Government officials seal a copper smelter controlled by Vedanta Resources in Thoothukudi

Women shout slogans during a protest against the government and police forces after at least nine people were killed when police fired at protesters calling for the closure of a Vedanta Resources-controlled copper smelter in Thootukudi, in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in Chennai, India, May 22, 2018.

Thousands of local residents have been protesting for more than three months against the Sterlite copper smelting plant and its reported expansion.

Media reports from the town of Tuticorin say that pushing and shoving between protesters and police turned more violent on Tuesday, with demonstrators pelting police with stones, overturning cars and setting fires.

Earlier in the day, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had asserted that "Amma's government" will take resolute steps for the permanent closure of Vedanta group's copper plant.

"Under section 18 (1)(b) of the Water Act, 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorses the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also directs the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently", an order from the environment and forests department said.

However no one had been working at the Sterlite Copper subsidiary of Vedanta Resources for nearly two months. The closure was extended in the face of mounting opposition from villagers over allegations that pollution was hurting locals' health.

The Madras high court on Wednesday, however, ordered a stay on the expansion and directed that a public hearing be held.

Following widespread condemnation of the killings, the state chief minister has ordered an inquiry and announced compensation of 10 lakh rupees (US$14,600) to each of the families of those who died.

The protests have intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to expand the plant.

The plant, about 375 miles (600km) south of Tamil Nadu's state capital Chennai, is now shut as the company awaits a licence to expand the site.

Protesters complained that the state government had not responded to their demands.

Amidst the outrage due to the violence in anti-Sterlite protest in Tuticorin, a video has emerged showing the inhuman reaction of the police as a young man lay dying on the ground.

About 102 protesters were also injured in the clashes, while 19 sustained serious injuries. The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure safety of our employees, facilities, and surrounding communities.

In 2013, the Supreme Court took cognisance of the pollution from the existing plant and fined the company Rs 100 crore for the environmental damage it had caused between 1997 and 2012.

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