Police Fatally Shoot Copper Plant Protesters

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Last week, 13 were killed after police opened fire on protesters demanding that the smelter in the port city of Thoothukudi be shut down.

Thousands of protesters turned out on Tuesday amid months of rallies against the Sterlite copper smelting plant, which demonstrators say has polluted the area's groundwater. According to police and government, the protesters pelted stones at the policemen and also set their vehicles on fire.

"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.

"Under sections, 18 (1) (b) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently", said the order issued by MD Nasimmudddin, principal secretary, environment and forest department. Vedanta Ltd, the parent company of Sterlite Copper, is a subsidiary of the UK-based conglomerate, Vedanta Resources Plc. The protests had entered their hundredth day on the day of the firing.

"The news from Tamil Nadu that 13 protesters against Vedanta have been killed is shocking and demands action", said John McDonnell, Labour's Shadow Chancellor.

Plans to double its capacity are also under threat after a local court delivered an interim order staying the expansion until a further hearing, to be held by September 23, Vedanta said Wednesday.

The company on Monday called the closure of the plant it has operated for over 22 years an "unfortunate development".

The protests intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to double the 400,000-tonne annual capacity of the plant.

The police action had received widespread condemnation from Opposition parties as well as global human rights bodies.

A protest against the Industrial giant was planned for Saturday afternoon, by the Foil Vedanta (a grassroots activist group centred in London but linking into domestic campaign groups) and Tamil People in the United Kingdom (a group representing several thousand members across Britain).

In an official statement reported in the media, Sterlite Copper said: "It's with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed today's incidents around the protest today at Tuticorin".

The families of each victim would be offered one million rupees' (RM58,000) compensation, he added. The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure safety of our employees, facilities, and surrounding communities. The activists repeatedly voiced environmental concerns, saying that the plant causes serious health problems among local residents.

India's federal green court allowed it to be reopened.