A general view shows Sterlite Industries Ltd’s copper plant in Tuticorin, in Tamil Nadu April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

NEW DELHI/BEIJING (Reuters) – Vedanta Ltd is selling down copper concentrate stocks from its Sterlite smelter in southern India, looking to cut costs at the plant ordered permanently shut in May, company and government sources told Reuters last week.

The Thoothukudi plant was ordered shut by the Tamil Nadu state government after protests against alleged pollution culminated in police killing 13 demonstrators.

General elections are due in May, and the two main political parties in Tamil Nadu are against reopening the smelter, increasing the likelihood that the shutdown will continue.

“Vedanta has disposed of 55,000 tonnes of copper concentrate, and has about 35,000 tonnes left, which will be disposed of soon,” one of the government officials told Reuters.

The official could not be named because he was not authorised to speak publicly.

Vedanta shipped the copper concentrate in two cargoes to Chinese buyers, one of 25,000 tonnes in late December, and another of 30,000 tonnes in late January, according to two company sources and two shipping industry sources.

Vedanta plans to sell soon the remaining 35,000 tonnes of concentrate left at the 400,000 tonne-per-year smelter, one of Asia’s biggest outside China, said three Indian government sources. The sources declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

“Inventory of concentrate will be liquidated in line with our commercial protocols and as per the direction of district administration,” Vedanta said in a statement, giving no further details.

An official at Daye Nonferrous Metals Group, one of China’s top copper smelters, said his company had taken a cargo of Vedanta’s concentrate at the port of Nanjing, without specifying how much.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan in NEW DELHI and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Additional reporting by Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Tom Hogue


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