Titanium plant fears closure as officials trump up charges

A few weeks ago, Thoothukudi district collector wrote to Thoothukudi port and stopped deloading of raw ilmenite from Indonesia.

Next to Titanium dioxide producer in Kerala, ‘V V Titanium Pigment’ plant here is the only other manufacturer of Titanium dioxide that has great demand in India for the production of paper, plastics, paint, ceramics, cosmetics and textile products.

THOOTHUKUDI: The ‘V V Titanium Pigments’ private limited, one of the two Antasegrade Titanium dioxide manufacturers in the country, alleged that officials including the district collector here was attempting to close down the industry by filing false cases against it.

Next to Titanium dioxide producer in Kerala, ‘V V Titanium Pigment’ plant here is the only other manufacturer of Titanium dioxide that has great demand in India for the production of paper, plastics, paint, ceramics, cosmetics and textile products. This industry under operation for more than two decades, however, relies upon imported ilmenite, the key raw material for titanium dioxide, as mining of ilmenite in Tamil Nadu has been banned since 2012.

A few weeks ago, Thoothukudi district collector wrote to Thoothukudi port and stopped deloading of raw ilmenite from Indonesia. However, the consignment was released from the port on October 24, 2019 based on an order from the Madurai high court bench on a petition filed by the shipping agency that disputed that the Collector had no power to stop importing minerals as per the Central Mines and Minerals Rule.

But, despite the court ruling, two officers – a tahsildar and a district officer from the mines department – instructed the titanium dioxide manufacturer not to use the imported ilmenite, according to Pon Sekaran, general manager of the company.

“The two officers, however, returned as we demanded a written order,” said Pon Sekaran, who also added that on Thursday, the local police registered a case accusing the company of illegally stocking imported ilmenite, for which the company had paid an import duty of Rs 87 lakh.

Pon Sekaran said he suspected the involvement of an officer at the director’s office of mines and minerals, Chennai, and some higher officials in the Thoothukudi district administration.

He too made public an audio file in a press briefing in this regard at the Thoothukudi press club. A person introducing himself as an activist, demanded Rs 1,000 for a ton of the ilmenite imported by the company.

The activist claims himself to be close to an official at the department of mines and minerals. The activist in the audio also says that necessary steps have been taken through the Thoothukudi district collector to close down the unit, as they refused to pay the amount demanded by him.

The company general manager said that they were planning to approach the high court again regarding the issue, as higher officials are suspected to be involved.

When DC contacted Thoothukudi collector, Sandeep Nanduri, regarding the issue, he could not be contacted. He neither responded to the media for a written message sent through his WhatsApp number.

Panzhihua Haifengxin has developed a range of tio2 pigment which is client-oriented and aiming to address customer needs in the fields of coating, ink, plastic, paper, and so on.

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