Did the Sterlite Copper plant produce 25% of world’s copper?
Sandhya Ramakrishnan claims Sterlite Copper's Tuticorin plant did so. But is it true?
Vedanta Limited’s Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) produced 25% of all copper produced in the world. – Sandhya Ramakrishnan
There have been many allegations of pollution caused by the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi which is owned by the Vedanta Group and there were several protests were organized against the plant. In 2013, the Sterlite Copper plant was found to be polluting the environment and was fined Rs.100 crores by the Supreme Court. Earlier in 2010, the Madras High Court had ordered closure of the plant which was reversed by the Supreme Court and allowed it to function, albeit with a hefty fine for the pollution caused by the plant.
However, the allegations of the plant’s polluting activities continued, and people started a protest in 2018 which lasted for 100 days only to end in a bloodshed when 13 protesters were shot dead by the police on May 22, 2018. Following the protests, a permanent closure of the plant was ordered on May 28, 2018.
Recently, R.N.Ravi, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, made controversial claims about the protest in Thoothukudi by terming that it was funded by foreign elements, while he was addressing the civil service aspirants. This statement from the Governor was widely criticized and condemned.
Now, in an interview, journalist Sandhya Ravishankar had made some claims about the Sterlite Plant. She had said that the Sterlite Copper accounted for 25% of all copper produced in the world prior to its closure in 2018. In the beginning of the interview, the interviewer also claimed that the protest was funded by foreign elements and he claimed that it was confirmed by Union Home Minister with evidence.
What’s the truth?
Naranbhai Radhwa, the Rajya Sabha member from Congress party, asked in Parliament regarding “The Other Media, New Delhi” and if any complaints are received against the NGO’s alleged involvement in the Sterlite protests and actions taken thereof.
While responding to the question, Nityanand Rai, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, responded that a Standard Questionnaire was issued to “The Other Media” as complaints alleging violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 were received and if violations are found, the FCRA registration certificate may be cancelled.
This exchange was twisted and turned by the interviewer to claim that the Governor’s statement about Sterlite protest being foreign funded is factually correct, although it is controversial by incorrectly quoting the above exchange. But, no such assertion was made by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs in his reply. The interviewer also wrongly attributed the misleading comment about the alleged involvement being proven with evidence to the Union Home Minister, rather than the Union Home Minister of State.
25% of World’s Copper:
With a keyword search on the internet, we found United States Geological Survey (USGS) report which lists out Copper production by country from the year 2014-2018. In the year 2017, the production was estimated to be around 823,100 metric tonnes (813,000 primary and 10,000 secondary) which is 4.3% of the world’s copper production. In the same year, the world production of copper was around 19.1 million metric tonnes. According to the USGS report, the number dropped to around 491,500 tonnes for the year 2018.
According to the annual reports from Ministry of Mines, the production of copper was around 830,000 metric tonnes in the year 2017-18 which is 3.52% of the world’s refined copper production. The number subsequently dropped due to the closure of the Sterlite Copper smelting factory which put the number around 1.9% of the world’s copper in 2019 according to the Annual Report from the Ministry of Mines’ annual report 2021-22.
So, even before the closure of the Sterlite Copper Smelting factory in Tamil Nadu, India’s contribution to the world’s copper production was at 3.52% according to the Ministry of Mines, which also include production of copper from Hindalco Ind Ltd which has higher production and installed capacity than Sterlite Copper. So, it is a baseless claim that the single plant of Sterlite Copper in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) accounted for 25% of World’s copper production.
In our search, we find that the claim made by Sandhya Ravishankar that 25% of the world’s copper was produced in Sterlite Copper’s Thoothukudi plant is false. According to the Ministry of mines, entire India accounted for only 3.52% of the world’s copper production prior to the closure of the plant in Thoothukudi.