* Indian buyers pounced on steep copper price fall
* Second Indian smelter to shut for two months for
* Sterlite's Vietnam customers buy spot shipments from Japan
* Smelters' processing fees could rise further
By Melanie Burton and Anupama Chandrasekaran
SINGAPORE/CHENNAI, April 26 (Reuters) - India's biggest
copper smelter should get a favourable ruling from a court on
Monday or soon after and could restart within a couple of weeks,
traders said on Friday, but may face conditions on how it
operates after a month-long shut down.
India ordered Sterlite Industries to shut its
smelter in Tuticorin on March 30 after residents complained of
emissions that resulted in breathing difficulties.
The company says high emission readings were likely to have
happened when workers recalibrated sensors following two days of
The plant meets half of India's copper demand and exports
mainly to China. Further delays would exacerbate a tight
domestic market, underpin global premiums for refined copper and
enable Chinese smelters to charge higher processing fees.
A fast-track environmental court will consider a request to
reopen the plant on April 29.
"I personally think they will restart, even if it takes a
week or two more. I don't think that they are going to be shut
down," said a source at an Indian trading house.
Traders said a restart may be conditional. Experts inspected
the plant on April 23 and plan another visit on Saturday. The
panel will submit its report to the court on April 29.
"Depending on the report, the court may choose to give the
other parties or us time to file an objection and then the
process may take another two weeks or so," said T.R.
Rajagopalan, Sterlite's lawyer, adding that it would take at
least three days to start production after the green light.
The shutdown will cut copper supplies and conversely boost
supply of copper concentrate. Some copper concentrate suppliers
have already resold May and June shipments, a trading house
source said, suggesting they expected a prolonged shutdown.
More refined copper supply cuts will come when Hindalco
Industries' Birla smelter shuts in May and June. Both
plants produce around 30,000 tonnes a month and both export
slightly under half of their production.
"There is an impact obviously on the domestic Indian
market," said another trader. Some Indian consumers have turned
to stocks, while some customers in Vietnam have tapped Japanese
sources for supply, traders said.
Most of India's copper exports go to China, the world's
biggest consumer of the metal, which used around 9 million
tonnes last year -- vastly more than India's annual consumption
of around 600,000 tonnes.
Copper premiums in Singapore hit an almost one-year high
early this month, partly fuelled by Sterlite's halt, and have
since steadied near 10-month highs .
Sterlite's smelter in the coastal southern town of Tuticorin
has long been the focus of protesters and politicians who say it
is a risk to the local fishing industry.
Sterlite is a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate
Vedanta Resources Plc which is controlled by Anil
Agarwal, India's 21st richest man, according to Forbes magazine.
(Additional reporting by Polly Yam in Hong Kong and Anupama
Chandrasekaran in Chennai; editing by Keiron Henderson; Editing
by Amran Abocar)