The Tamil Nadu government on Monday decided to allow Sterlite Industries to produce oxygen at its Thoothukudi Copper Smelter plant, despite Advocate General Vijay Narayan stating the Madras High Court that most of the oxygen produced in the plant was of industrial quality and unfit for medical use.
However, permission to open the oxygen manufacturing plant was given for just four months.
One of the conditions set forth for the company was that none of the other units at the Thoothukudi plant can be opened or operated over the next four months and it may be extended in view of the ongoing pandemic.
The oxygen produced should be primarily distributed to Tamil Nadu hospitals, while the surplus production can be given to other states.
A committee will monitor the oxygen manufacturing and it is said that under no circumstances the company will allow the production of copper or electricity inside the plant.
The committee will have the Superintendent of Police, Sub-Collector, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board district environment engineer, two government officials with expertise in oxygen production, three public representatives - one from the locality, one from an environmental NGO and another from the anti-Sterlite protest group.
The state electricity board will supply the power for the manufacturing of oxygen and the committee would supervise it.
A statement by the company said that the firm is committed to producing only medical-grade oxygen with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes. It is also stated that the company has started working with experts on how best to resolve the logistics of dispatching the produced oxygen to critical areas in Tamil Nadu on priority, and subsequently across the nation.
Following public protests demanding the closure of the Sterilite plant after the death of 13 anti-Sterlite protestors in a police firing, the plant has been closed since May 2018. A group of people in Thoothukudi strongly raised objections over the proposal to reopen the plant for the production of oxygen at a meeting last week.