Sterlite Copper – The 22 Year Journey

Sterlite Copper, India’s copper giant, started its operations in Thoothukudi in the year 1996. The company has set milestones since its inception in terms of capacity and efficient processes and is currently producing 400,000 MT of Copper, 200,000 MT of Phosphoric Acid, 1.2 million MT of Sulphuric Acid and other valuable by-products.

Copper is a crucial element in the functioning of any modern-day society, and its usage is nonpareil from home to industries. Presently, India has three major copper industries of which Sterlite Copper with its highest production is catering to 36 percent of India’s Copper Market share. Primary copper and downstream copper products such as copper rods, cables, winding wires, sheet, strip, foil, plates, tubes etc. are used in multiple industries such as infrastructure, building & construction, power, defence, engineering, transportation etc. owing to its properties of high electrical and thermal conductivity and corrosion resistance.

The company has grown multi-fold in its capacities in producing 100,000 MT in 1996 to 400,000 MT in 2006 and is currently meeting the copper demands in the domestic and global sector. Furthermore, Sterlite Copper is also the single-largest sulphuric acid and phosphoric acid producer in south India, catering to the fertilizer market.

The Metal Mammoth is equipped with state of the art technology such as a Smelter from MIM in Australia, an Effluent Treatment Plant from France and Acid Plants from Germany and Canada making it one among the most efficient plants in the world today.

Located in  Thoothukudi, the southern part of Tamil Nadu, Sterlite Copper has been a boon not only to the copper industry but also to the local community and the State economy. Since 2010, Sterlite Copper has contributed over INR 12,000 crores to the Exchequer and is the fifth largest company in Tamil Nadu, contributing to 3.3% of the state’s gross domestic product. The company is presently one of the largest users of VOC port and contributes to around 8% of the total port volume. The company has invested about 3000 crores so far in establishing an advanced operational setup here at Thoothukudi.

On the community front, Sterlite Copper has impacted lives through projects focussing in the fields of Education, Health, Child Care, Women Empowerment, Infrastructure, Livelihood, Agriculture & Animal Husbandry. The company has assiduously strived hard to drive the community lifeline projects forward.

Sterlite Copper in its quest to become a sustainable copper producer, continued to pursue its journey towards benchmarking best practices by optimizing energy consumption and resource conservation, and has to its credit the implementation of management systems and secured certifications related to Quality, Environment, Occupational Health & Safety, Energy and Asset Optimization. The company has spent INR 516 crores ($80 million) towards improving the environmental measures in the plant.

Progressing on the sustainability facets, the company’s strong inclination towards the energy conservation, made it possible for it to be the lowest energy consumption copper smelter among the other global smelters. Every drop of water in the plant is judiciously used and in addition to that, the company has been a pioneer in Thoothukudi in being a “Zero Liquid Discharge” facility since inception. To maintain the lowest emissions, the operational efficiencies of the unit have been augmented to reduce the SO2 emissions intensity from 4 Kg/tonne of acid produced to 2 kg/tonne of acid produced in the year 2008 and later to 1kg/Tonne of acid produced. This shows that the company has progressively achieved the international standards in emissions through its concentrated efforts to achieve its sustainability goals.

The unit has also invested significantly on the emission control equipment like bag house and flue gas desulphurization system for the smelter, which is over and above the requirement for capturing the sulphur dioxide emissions to enhance its efficiency and for necessary compliance with the stringent emission norms. The sulphur dioxide emissions from the smelting process is taken into the gas cleaning plant equipped with wet Electrostatic precipitators for its utilization in sulphuric acid production. Our Sulphuric Acid plant, equipped with Double Conversion Double Adsorption technology (DCDA), operates with the efficiency of 99.99% ensuring maximum conversion. Further, in the downstream of the process, the traces of unabsorbed sulphur dioxide emissions are entirely scrubbed off in the double alkali based tail gas scrubbers running round the clock.

To build operational integrity, all the process stacks are embedded with engineering interlocks to trip the plant in case of any non-compliance with the stipulated emission norms. All the process stacks are fit with online analyzers, and the values are continuously transmitted to Care Air Centre, Chennai and TNPCB for round the clock online monitoring. The unit also monitors the ambient air quality round the clock with Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring stations set up around the plant.

Sterlite Copper in its vision to achieve “Zero Waste,” has succeeded in utilizing the scrubber cake generated from flue gas desulphurization system after oxidation for its utilization in cement applications. Waste to resource conservation initiative was widely applauded as it promotes the industrial ecology and conservation of huge quantity of resources. Besides, copper slag, a by-product from the copper operations was considered waste until the research on copper slag and its sustainable applications proved that it is an alternative to natural fine aggregates usable for concrete making. Copper slag is widely used in cement manufacturing and concrete applications which was complemented by the Bureau of Indian Standards specifications. As an abrasive, landfill material and in road construction, copper slag is the most suitable aggregate demonstrating efficiency at par with natural aggregates. The Phospho-gypsum generated from the phosphoric acid plant is utilized in cement manufacturing, fertilizer applications, and bricks manufacturing.

Over two decades, the company has enabled 1000’s of families through employment and groomed them professionally in various business verticals. Presently, out of 3000 people working 70% are from Tamil Nadu state with near to about 40% from in and around Thoothukudi region.

Owing to its large operations, the company is supporting various SME’s in sectors such as transportation, stevedoring & ancillary industries. Overall, the company has been instrumental in generating businesses for more than 100 businesses in the region and one of the prime company to develop downstream industries in and around Thoothukudi.

Health and Safety are two vital core areas of Vedanta operations, and due to the consistent efforts of Sterlite Copper workforce, the company has been conferred with Five Star Rating and the Prestigious ‘Sword of Honour’ by the British Safety Council, UK in 2017.

Overall, Thoothukudi presently ranks 3rd in Tamil Nadu’s Human Development Index and 5th in per capita income among the districts of Tamil Nadu and is growing at a much faster rate than Tamil Nadu whereby Sterlite Copper’s contribution in making this happen is immense and irreplaceable.

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