Swindling over coal extraction by government

Govt stand on coal extraction contradictory

New Age June 9, 2012

The government has been repeatedly shifting its stand on coal extraction from the five identified deposits located in the northern region since it took office in the first week of 2009.

As per the second update of the Power and Energy Sector Road Map placed with the budget documents in parliament on Thursday, finance minister AMA Muhith suggested to formulate a coal extraction plan in accordance with the demand for electricity generation.

Muhith also suggested to build up mass awareness regarding the method of extraction, especially for the open-pit coal mining after finalising the coal policy.

However, prime minister Sheikh Hasina in January said, ‘We will keep our coal reserve for the next generation and will now import coal to generate electricity for our use in Bangladesh.’

But one month later, Hasina on February 14 said in parliament that her government had plans to set up coal-fired power plants after extracting the coal from the country’s five coal mines.

Hasina in September 2006 at a public meeting at Phulbari in Dinajpur expressed her stand against open-pit coal mining.

Earlier on August 26, the then Bangladesh Rifles opened fire on a peaceful demonstration against the open-pit mining method proposed by Asia Energy and killed three protesters — Salekin, Tariqul and Amin. Asia Energy later changed its name to Global Coal Management or GCM.

Following the loss of lives and series of protests in home and abroad by civil rights activists and environmentalists, the government suspended the Phulbari project.

Experts said that there was no instance of open-pit coal mining in a fertile area having a high population density and a huge water layer over the coal deposits.

The government’s plan for installation of domestic coal-based power plants with a total capacity of around 12,000MW would require more than 30 million tonnes of coal a year which would necessitate extraction of coal by open-pit method, officials said.

They said that it would not be possible to meet the demand by extracting coal by underground method which would produce around five million tonnes of coal a year from the five coal deposits in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, a number of state-run and foreign companies came forward with an intention to extract coal by open-pit mining.

Amidst such volatile situation, GCM once again started its activities to get the government’s approval for developing Phulbari coal mine in open-pit method.

The UK-based firm has reportedly taken a number of influential groups abroad to show them different open-pit mines in order to convince them so that they would pursue the government for allowing its Phulbari project.

Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port, said that the government’s contradictory attitude towards coal extraction from the local deposits showed its dependence on foreign lobbies.

He said that the government was cheating with people by giving contradictory statements from time to time in this regard. But it had the plan for coal extraction using open-pit method since 2010 although it was saying that coal extraction would be started after finalising coal policy, he said.

Apart from this, Bangladesh Coal-based Power Generation Company Limited –– a power development board subsidiary –– sought licences for coal extraction from at least two of the coal deposits to feed their planned coal fired plants.

Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited –– a subsidiary of state-run Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources Corporation, Petrobangla –– also wanted all the five coal deposits for coal extraction.

Petrobangla already owns the licences for Barapukuria and Dighipara coal deposits.

The country’s five discovered coal deposits are Jamajganj with 1,053 million tonnes, Barapukuria with 377 million tonnes, Khalaspir with 685 million tonnes, Phulbari with about 572 million tonnes and Dighipara with about 600 million tonnes.


Open-pit mining education planned

Aminur Rahman Rasel
bdnews24.com Correspondent

Dhaka, Jun 8 (bdnews24.com) — Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith has said residents near coal mines will not only be made aware of open-pit mining but also be involved in the process.

Muhith came up with the idea as he talked about developing power and energy sector while placing the budget for 2012-13 fiscal on Thursday. The government plans to feed fuel-starved coal-based power plants.

In 2006, local people at Phulbari in Dinajpur waged a movement to prevent the government from extracting coal through open-pit mining and the government eventually bowed to the demand.

“Increase in use of coal instead of gas as a source of energy for ensuring a balance development in the economic activities is necessary. Though there have been enough coal reserves in the country, there are concerns over the process and technology of coal extractions,” Muhith said in his budget speech.

“So, public awareness will be built up about coal extraction process, especially the open-pit mining and people will be made a part of it,” he added.

The Finance Minister also said if coal extraction through open-pit mining was found to be financially profitable, plans for ensuring alternative residence for the local people, their livelihood, environmental protection and overall development in the area’s infrastructure will be drawn up based on the opinion of the residents.

“Among the sources of non-renewable energy, coal has a potential in Bangladesh. As coal in our reserves are of higher standards, use of those as fuel at power plants and industries will not only reduce production costs but also increase the production capacity,” Muhith added.

About importing coal, the Minister said, “Experts have diverging opinions about meeting the energy crisis by importing coal. Demand for coal will go up once the effort for establishing coal-based power plants is initiated.”

He shed some light on the things the government should be doing: these include formulation of a plan for extracting coal after finalising a coal policy and making the government stance over coal import clear.

It is predicted that there are reserves of 3,300 million tonnes of coal in five mines explored so far. The reserves can generate as much energy as produced by 87 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Of the reserves, 390 million tonnes are at Dinajpur, 572 million tonnes at Phulbari, 600 million tonnes at Dighipara, 1,053 million tonnes at Jamalganj in Joypurhat and 685 million tonnes at Khalaspir in Rangpur.

Currently, about 3000 metric tons of coal are being extracted from Barapukuria coal mine every day and most of it is used for generating power at 250MW thermal power plant in the same area.