World biggest Zinc Smelter Project in Gujarat: Key Facts
The Hindustan Zinc Limited is to invest Rs 10,000 crores to set up the biggest zinc smelter in the world. The smelter is to be set up in the industrial region of South Gujarat. The smelter is capable of producing 300 kilo tonnes per annum.
The State Government of Gujarat has signed Memorandum of Understanding with the Vedanta group to set up the smelter. The project will provide employment opportunities for the youth in the state. Also, the smelter to be erecter will be the lowest cost smelter in the world. The facility is to be constructed in an area of 415 hectares.
Former smelter plant issues
The Thoothukudi Massacre that occurred in 2018 in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu was during a protest against expansion of copper smelter plant of Sterlite Corporation.
What is the issue?
Due to the Copper Smelter plant, there was increased prevalence of respiratory diseases in 5-km radius of the plant. Also, the groundwater iron content increased by 17 to 20 times as that of the permissible limits. The report of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute said that the levels of arsenic, selenium and lead were higher than that of specified standards. These were the main reasons behind the protests.
What is Smelting?
Smelting is the process by which heat is applied to extract a metal from its ore. The process is used to extract copper, iron, silver, zinc and other base metals. During heating, apart from the metal, several other chemical components are emitted. Of these, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen dioxide nauseous and pollute the atmosphere.
The waste products of smelting are released into water supplies. Such waste contains lead and chromium that are hazardous to plant and animal life.
Acid rains are common in the regions of smelting plants. Acid rain erodes land and makes it unfit for cultivation.
The workers in the smelting plans are exposed to toxic chemicals. Inhalation of these chemicals harm the worker health and productivity.