Deadly protests in India spark suspension of copper smelting plant’s expansion

Deadly protests in India spark suspension of copper smelting plant’s expansion
An Indian court has halted the expansion of a Sterlite Copper smelter after 11 protesters were killed during rallies demanding the closure of the existing plant due to pollution.

The Madras High Court in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state ordered to “cease construction and all other activities” related to the expansion of the facility in Tuticorin, a city with more than 400,000 residents. Vedanta Resources, a London-listed company that owns the plant was planning to double its operations, but locals started to protest with demonstrations turning violent.

The court’s decision came a day after at least 11 people were killed and more than 60 injured in Tuticorin during violent clashes with police. Police insist officers opened fire at protesters to control the situation at the rallies.

"What happened in Thoothukudi is a cold-blooded murder by police. They should be booked for murder… Taking moral responsibility, [Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu] Edappadi K Palaniswami should resign," local politician and a member of member of the Indian parliament Anbumani Ramadoss said, as cited by the Times of India. 

The protests have been rocking the area for three months now. The activists repeatedly voiced environmental concerns, saying that the plant causes serious health problems among local residents. Back in 2013 locals said they suffered from nausea and throat infections from alleged gas leaks at the plant. 

The existing Sterlite Copper plant in the city has been closed since the end March for scheduled maintenance.

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