NEW DELHI/SHANGHAI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - India's Vedanta Ltd has been selling copper concentrate on the spot market from stockpiles at its Sterlite smelter, a company official said, after the facility was forced to stop operating earlier this year amid pollution concerns.
The company is disposing of around 70,000 tonnes of copper concentrate that have been lying unused since the closure of the plant, the official told Reuters on Thursday. He declined to be identified, saying it was against company policy.
The Tamil Nadu state disconnected the smelter's power supply in May following anti-pollution protests that turned violent and culminated in the police opening fire, killing 13 protesters.
The company has denied that the plant, India's second biggest copper smelter located in the port city of Thoothukudi, pollutes the area.
The closure of the plant has disrupted Asia's copper market. But traders expect it to restart in 2019, saying the selldown of stockpiles was likely to be because the company is looking to raise cash and square its books before year-end rather than a sign the facility would not reopen.
"A few weeks we had got some enquiries (from Vedanta)," Birla Copper CEO J. C. Laddha told Reuters.
"If they are selling and it makes sense for us commercially, we would definitely be interested."
Spot treatment and refining charges (TC/RCS), which miners pay smelters to process their metal, have moved to two-year highs at $91.50 and 9.2 cents according to Asian Metal, up by a quarter from five-year lows touched in April.
That is higher than benchmark terms for next year that were agreed this week. Chinese copper smelter Jiangxi Copper and miner Antofagasta agreed 2019 copper treatment and refining charges (TC/RCs) at $80.80 a tonne and 8.08 cents a pound, three sources familiar with the matter said.
Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj in NEW DELHI, Tom Daly in SHANGHAI and Melanie Burton in MELBOURNE; Editing by Joseph Radford