VEDANTA Ltd today (15) named metals industry veteran Pankaj Kumar as Sterlite Copper chief executive, amid struggles to reopen its smelter in southern India that was shut after police killed 13 demonstrators protesting against the plant.
Kumar replaces P Ramnath, who led Sterlite for eight years. Under Ramnath, the smelter was ordered shut at least twice, including for an alleged gas leak in 2013.
“My tenure as the CEO has been an eventful journey, and as is the case with any journey, there have been numerous ups and downs,” Ramnath, who will continue as an advisor to the company, said in a statement.
Kumar, who will also oversee operations at Vedanta’s Malco Energy Limited and Fujairah Gold, has worked at Hindustan Zinc , Tata Steel and Adani Ports, in a career stretching over 29 years.
Kumar was also chief operating officer at Sterlite Copper in the past, the company said.
Sterlite Copper, which operates a 400,000-tonne-per-year smelter in the South India port city of Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu state, was forced to shut its plant by Tamil Nadu state in May on alleged environment pollution grounds, and is estimated to have lost more than £150.86 million ($200m) since.
The chief executive replacement comes amid a drawn-out legal battle over the smelter that could be complicated further by federal elections that start on April 11.
The two main political parties in Tamil Nadu state are against reopening the smelter, increasing the likelihood that the shutdown will continue.