India's largest copper smelter to stay shut until April 29

CHENNAI, India, (REUTERS) - India's largest copper smelter, run by Sterlite Industries Ltd, will not start commercial production until at least April 29 when a court will again consider a request to reopen the plant which was shut after complaints of emissions.

A committee will inspect the plant between April 18 to April 29, Justice M. Chockalingam of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said after a hearing on Friday.

Sterlite declared force majeure on copper deliveries after the March 30 closure of the plant, which produces about 350,000 tonnes of the metal a year and exports about half of that. The plant's closure has driven up premiums for copper in Asia.

Most of India's copper exports go to China, the world's biggest consumer of the metal, which used up around 9 million tonnes last year - vastly more than India's annual consumption of around 600,000 tonnes.

State authorities ordered the closure after nearby residents complained about emissions. Sterlite, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources Plc, has said the plant's emissions were within agreed limits.

It declared force majeure on copper sales and concentrate purchases on April 3. Force majeure is a contract clause that allows a company to miss shipments in circumstances beyond its control.

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