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India Court Orders Pollution Agency on Sterlite Time Extension

India’s top court today ordered the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to decide on giving more time to Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. to comply with emission standards at its copper smelter in the southern state.

The Board has four weeks to decide on allowing more time to the company, the nation’s largest copper producer, to dispose of gypsum at its Tuticorin plant, Supreme Court Judges H. L. Dattu and Anil Dave said today in an order. The company had sought an extension of a May 30 deadline to clear the copper-refining waste.

The Madras High Court on Sept. 28, 2010 ruled Sterlite’s 400,000 metric-ton smelter should be shut for breaching environmental standards. The company challenged the decision in the top court in October. India is tightening rules to protect ecologically sensitive regions, prevent illegal mining and safeguard the resources and livelihood of the people living around mines and factories.

Shares of Sterlite, owned by billionaire Anil Agarwal, fell 2 percent to 109.65 rupees at close of trade in Mumbai. The shares have risen 22 percent this year, compared with an 11 percent gain in the benchmark Sensitive Index.

The court granted an interim extension to run the plant until June 30, the order said. The court will hear the final arguments by July, the order said.

On Oct. 11, the court had asked the pollution control authority to issue directions to the copper smelter to implement environmental improvements. The court had earlier ordered the board to issue notice to the company to comply with emission standards.

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