Tamil Nadu

Sterlite released arsenic into environment, claims report

Chennai Solidarity Group has alleged that Sterlite had cut costs by compromising on pollution control infrastructure.   | Photo Credit: N_RAJESH

Vedanta Ltd’s Sterlite Copper smelter unit in Thoothukudi emitted between 2 and 21 tonnes of cancer-causing arsenic into the environment every day when it was in operation, a report released by Chennai Solidarity Group, using Sterlite’s own data, has said.

It claimed that the company’s consultant, NEERI, had grossly under-reported arsenic emission as 8 kg per day in a 2005 audit report by assuming that arsenic content in input copper concentrate ore was 0.0579%.

“However, Sterlite’s import documents reveal that copper concentrate shipments imported between 2009 and 2010 contained arsenic concentrations of 0.12% to 0.64%. Sterlite earned a discount of $667,360 (₹4.8 crore) from the supplier for purchasing the lower-grade ore concentrate, the data revealed,” the report said.

Responding to the claims made in the report, Sterlite said in the NEERI report, it was mentioned that 0.008 tonnes per day of arsenic was unaccounted out of the total input of 0.982 tonnes per day.“In any mass balance analysis carried out on the basis lab analysis reports, it is an acceptable theory that it is likely to have analytical errors to the tune of 0.5 to 1.0%. Here 0.8% falls within this range of analytical errors,” Sterlite said.

People were not merely agitating, they were calling out for the protection of environment which is a Constitutional right, said Advocate Henri Tiphagne.

People were not merely agitating, they were calling out for the protection of environment which is a Constitutional right, said Advocate Henri Tiphagne.   | Photo Credit: N_RAJESH

 

The company alleged that vested interests have tried to extend the same theory to concentrates that had reached Thoothukudi port in 2009 and 2010.

Sterlite said copper concentrate would never be used as it arrived and was always blended with different types of concentrate to arrive at optimum process parameters. This included the arsenic input to the process “because if not for an optimum blend, there can be serious disturbances in the bath metallurgy. It is strong attempt to mislead the public by merely comparing 2005 data with consignments (that) arrived in 2009 and 2010,” Sterlite said.

Chennai Solidarity Group also alleged that Sterlite had cut costs by compromising on pollution control infrastructure. Such emissions along with sub-standard pollution mitigation infrastructure, was likely to have resulted in intense toxic exposure to the people living around the factory. The group also said the company failed to develop a necessary green belt as mandated by the Environmental Clearance.

The company, however, said a joint inspection team on the request of environmental activist Nithyanand Jayaraman had carried out analysis of arsenic in the ambient air “and the results reveal that the concentration of metals are below the stipulated CPCB standards,” as per the 2011 NEERI report.

Sterlite also said the greenbelt requirements were fulfilled for the total 172 hectares and this was jointly inspected by the CPCB and the TNPCB. As on date, the company had 43 hectares of green belt, it said.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 12:01:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/sterlite-released-arsenic-into-environment-claims-report/article24538312.ece

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