Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu will start producing oxygen from its second plant on Sunday (May 30). By June 3, the factory will be able to supply not less than 25 metric tonnes of oxygen to hospitals in need.
The controversial plant started producing medical oxygen on May 13, after three years, following Supreme Court order in April, which told the then AIADMK government to reopen the company to meet hospitals’ demand for COVID patients.
The company which is mainly into manufacturing copper has two oxygen plants. “On May 13, we started only one plant which began producing 35MT of oxygen, but we had to halt work due to some technical problem. Oxygen manufacturing re-started on May 19,” said a senior Sterlite official.
The mining company roped in experts from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to rectify the problems in the first plant.
The second plant will start producing oxygen on Sunday (May 30). “We expect to start oxygen supply from the second plant from the coming Thursday. Initially we plan to send not less than 25MT of oxygen, but in the coming days, it will increase as the second plant becomes operational,” said the official.
Sterlite has agreed to supply medical oxygen free of cost to hospitals in and around Tirunelveli and Tuticorin as well as to other districts in the state. “We have so far invested a total of Rs 30 crore in the two plants to produce oxygen. The company is also planning to set up a bottling plant on the premises at a cost of Rs 10 crore,” said the official.
The previous AIADMK government has allowed the company to produce oxygen till July only. “We are investing Rs 5 crore per plant per month to produce oxygen. Thus from both the plants not less than 50 to 60MT of medical oxygen is expected to be supplied in the days to come,” said the official.
The state government had sealed the Tuticorin-based Sterlite plant of Vendanta in 2018, following the death of 13 agitators, who were killed in police firing while protesting against the company over environmental concerns.