New Delhi: Even as it struggles to reopen its smelter in Thoothukudi, Vedanta Ltd has named Pankaj Kumar as Sterlite Copper chief executive officer (CEO). Metals industry veteran Kumar replaced P Ramnath, who led Sterlite for eight years. The smelter was ordered to be closed at least two times under Ramnath, including a shutdown for an alleged gas leak in 2013. Accumulating an estimated loss of over US$ 200 million till date, the Tamil Nadu government forced Sterlite Copper to close the 400,000-tonne-per-year smelter in May after police killed 13 demonstrators protesting against the plant.
The crowd of protesters were part of an agitation against the environment pollution allegedly caused by the factory as well as the earlier gas leak. Vedanta said the claims of pollution have no factual basis and are false. The company also denied being the source of the gas leak.
Vedanta won a judgment in December from India's Natural Green Tribunal (NGT) that would have allowed for the reopening of the smelter. However, India's Supreme Court last month ruled that the environmental court did not have jurisdiction over the smelter.
"My tenure as CEO has been an eventful journey, and as is the case with any journey, there have been numerous ups and downs," Ramnath, who will continue as an adviser to the company, said in a statement.