New Delhi, April 04, 2012 – The Indian Supreme court has reportedly fined Sterlite Copper (a division of Vedanta- a company listed in the UK and a global metals conglomerate) an amount of Rs. 100 crore (approximately $18 million US) for environmental violations. Apparently the plant, a copper smelter, caused groundwater pollution in the area surrounding the plant, with high levels of Chromium, Copper and Lead in the water. The Tamil Nadu pollution control board says that the plant also emitted higher than permitted levels of Sulfur Dioxide in the area of Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu (a state in India) where the plant operates.
Sterlite says however that the emissions were within limits. The plant has now been shut down and a state of “Force Majeure” has been declared by the company.Force Majeure is a standard clause in contracts that is applied to things beyond control of the contracting parties. Invoking this clause allows the company to suspend deliveries of copper to its customers without triggering penalties for delay.
This is probably the first time that a company in India has been fined an amount of this scale for pollution related offenses. It just shows that countries and people all over the world, have started taking environmental and safety violations very seriously indeed. This sends a strong message to companies all over that the cost of not maintaining safety and a pollution free environment will be very high, much higher than the cost of implementing safety and environmental norms while building the plant.