Home Business Adani starts $1.2 billion copper plant; to boost India’s metal production

Adani starts $1.2 billion copper plant; to boost India’s metal production

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Adani starts $1.2 billion copper plant; to boost India’s metal production

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Billionaire Gautam Adani-led group on March 28 announced the start of the first phase of the world’s largest single-location copper manufacturing plant at Mundra in Gujarat, which will help cut India’s dependence on imports and aid energy transition.

Kutch Copper, a subsidiary of group’s flagship firm Adani Enterprises Ltd, “commissioned the first phase” of $1.2 billion “greenfield copper refinery by dispatching the maiden batch of cathodes to customers”, the company said in a statement.

The first phase of the facility that will produce 0.5 million tonnes a year of refined copper has started operations and full-scale 1 million tonnes capacity is expected by FY29 (March 2029).

India joins China and other nations that are rapidly expanding production of copper, a metal crucial for transition away from fossil fuels. Technologies critical to the energy transition like electric vehicles (EVs), charging infrastructure, solar photovoltaics (PV), wind and batteries, all require copper.

“On completion of the second phase, Kutch Copper, with 1 million tonnes per annum, will be the world’s largest single-location custom smelter, benchmarking ESG performance standards while leveraging state-of-the-art technology and digitalisation,” the statement said.

It will create 2,000 direct and 5,000 indirect employment opportunities.

India’s per capita copper consumption is estimated around 0.6 kg compared to the global average of 3.2 kg. India’s drive towards clean energy systems, increasing penetration of electric vehicles and a host of associated applications are expected to double the domestic copper demand by 2030.

The Adani Group is investing heavily in energy transition, in which copper will play a vital role. It is expanding into adjacent areas of its current capabilities, which makes the copper business a strategic fit.

“With Kutch Copper commencing operations, the Adani portfolio of companies is not only entering the metals sector but also driving India’s leap towards a sustainable and aatmanirbhar (self-reliant) future,” said Gautam Adani, Chairman of the Adani Group. “Our speed of execution in this ambitious, super-sized project underscores our commitment to take India to the forefront of the global copper sector.”

He said the domestic copper industry will play a crucial role in achieving the nation’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2070. “When (fully) commissioned, our modern smelter will set new benchmarks in copper production, with an enhanced thrust on innovative green technology.”

Kutch Copper is working towards establishing Kutch Copper Tubes Limited as part of its forward integration strategy to add copper tubes to its portfolio, the statement said, adding the tubes will cater to applications in air conditioning and refrigeration.

Copper is the third most used industrial metal after steel and aluminium, and its demand is rising on the back of fast-growing renewable energy, telecom, electric vehicles, charging infrastructure, and the development of power transmission and distribution networks.

India’s copper production has been unable to meet this demand, and domestic supply disruptions have led to a higher dependency on imported copper.

Imports have been consistently on the rise for the past five years. For FY23 (April 2022 to March 2023 fiscal), India imported a record 1,81,000 tonnes of copper, while exports plummeted to a record low of 30,000 tonnes, even lower than the Covid pandemic period, according to the government data.

The country is estimated to have consumed 7,50,000 tonnes of copper in FY23 (612 KT in FY22). The number is expected to rise to 1.7 million tonnes by 2027 on the back of huge demand from the green energy industry.

Global demand for copper from solar photovoltaic (PV) installations alone is estimated to double to 2.25 million tonnes in the current decade.

Adani group, which is rapidly growing its renewable portfolio, will be a significant consumer of the red metal.

“The technology used by Kutch Copper is engineered to have the lowest carbon footprint. One-third of the plant area has been designated as green belt space, and 15% of the capital has been allocated towards environmental protection. To minimise the ecological impact, the plant has implemented a zero-liquid discharge model and uses desalinated water for operations. It also recycles treated wastewater within processes to reduce waste,” the statement added.

Adani Group’s foray into copper manufacturing is a natural extension of its trading, mining, logistics, infrastructure, and manufacturing businesses.

Kutch Copper will produce copper cathodes and rods as well as valuable byproducts such as gold, silver, selenium and platinum.

Additionally, the integrated complex will produce sulphuric acid, which is a key raw material for manufacturing phosphatic fertilizers, detergents, pharmaceuticals, speciality chemicals, paper and sugar bleaching, and water treatment. India imports roughly two million tonnes of sulphuric acid.

The plant will produce 500,000 tonnes of refined copper per annum in Phase I with byproducts — nearly 25 tonnes of gold, 250 tonnes of silver, 1.5 million tonnes of sulphuric acid, and 250,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid. The Phase II expansion will increase the refined copper capacity up to 1 million tonnes per annum, sources said.

Adani’s copper plant comes at a time when Vedanta Ltd is seeking to reopen a long-shuttered 400,000 tonnes plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. The country’s biggest copper smelter is currently operated by Hindalco Industries Ltd, which also has a capacity of 0.5 million tonnes.

Globally, copper production is more concentrated than oil. The two top producers — Chile and Peru — account for 38% of world production.

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