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Sterlite asks staff to join back to clean up plant site

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New Delhi/Chennai, Jul 16 (PTI) More than one-and-a-half months after its copper smelter plant at Tuticorin was ordered to shut down, Sterlite Copper today said it will not sack any of its permanent staff and has asked employees to join back to help clean up the site.

The company, which has continued to pay its employees during the shutdown period, has asked its employees to join back duty to help meet local administration's deadline to evacuate sulphuric acid and other materials from the plant, its chief executive officer P Ramnath said.

The Tamil Nadu government in late May ordered permanent closure of a copper smelter of the firm after 13 people protesting to demand its shutdown on environmental concerns were killed.

Following the shutdown, most of the 707 permanent employees were relocated to other company units like the one at Silvassa in Tamil Nadu.

"We have been paying them. It is the Vedanta policy to retain our employees. We (Vedanta group) have got lots of companies, we can always redeploy them there," he told PTI in New Delhi.

Company sources in Chennai said employees were invited to discuss the "next course of action" in the wake of the closure of the unit.

"The entire plant, India's second-biggest with an annual production of more than 400,000 tonnes, was shut down abruptly without following any shutdown procedure and we were disallowed access," Ramnath said.

After the shutdown, there was a minor leak of sulphuric acid which the local administration did not take note of until it became "slightly bigger," he alleged.

After inspection, the local administrations told the company that they have to "evacuate" all material from the plant, he said.

"They have given us unrealistic timelines for evacuating sulphuric acid and various other metals that are there (at the plant site)," he said.

But since most of over 4,000 permanent and contractual employees had either been relocated to other plants or moved out of town, they have been recalled to help meet those timelines, he said.

"They have given a deadline to remove sulphuric acid within one weeks time. This is not possible at all. Copper concentrate has to be removed in 15 days. How is it possible? Not possible at all. Gypsum pound has to be evacuated in one month, again not possible," he said.

Stating that the deadlines are "completely unrealistic", Ramnath said the company is trying its best to meet the timelines and so the employees have been called back. PTI VIJ ANZ MR MR

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