MAC: Mines and Communities

Phulbari coalmine project: Experts apprehend adverse effect on environment

Published by MAC on 2005-12-26

Phulbari coalmine project: Experts apprehend adverse effect on environment

by Syful Islam / New Nation

26th December 2005

Some experts involved with the evaluation committee on feasibility study report of Phulbari coalmine project have apprehended adverse environmental effects in the surroundings of the mining area during extracting coal.

The experts, on condition of anonymity, have said ground water of around 20 kilometres of the mine will be dried, putting the inhabitants at risk [in regard to] pure drinking water. The tubewells would not get any drop of water to extract.

Around 10 thousand people's livelihood will be disturbed during the mining period while only one thousand new job opportunities will be created, they added.

They further said the open pit casting method, proposed by the Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd, is only suitable for abandoned areas but not suited to the densely populated countries like Bangladesh. Open pit mining in such areas is very much more risky, they observed.

They also said, "Asia Energy has involved very renowned companies in the feasibility study but they lack experience in some fields which will be affected during the mining period."

Bangladesh would not be much more beneficial from the coal extracting at Phulbari mine unless and until the Asia Energy shows profit. The government will get 45 per cent income tax only after the project becomes profitable officially. Unless this happens, the benefit is only 6 per cent royalties.

Narrating the present position of Barapukuria mine the experts further said the mine, nowadays, becomes a burden for the government as a big portion of coal is not extractable. As a result, we are in doubt how much coal will be extractable from the Phulbari mine, they said.

The government will get only 6 per cent royalties but it has to buy coal from Asia Energy according to the international price, which is not profitable for Bangladesh.

They also said, "The Asia Energy has pledged taking several measurements of water and environment management, relocation of inhabitants, compensating people, in order to obtain a mining licence, but what they will implement is matter of [speculation]."

Sources said the committee would meet again on December 31 next for individual opinions of all members on the feasibility study report and another 2 to 3 meetings will be needed to finalise a report on it. The committee was scheduled to produce a report to the government by December 31 but they already sought extension of the period.

Brian Mooney, head of corporate affairs of Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pty Ltd, a former Reuter's journalist tuned into commercial officer, yesterday told The New Nation that they will take all the required measures to prevent environment from any adverse affect.

"We will put water back so that the tube wells will not be affected," he said adding Bangladesh will benefit through many means including employment generation, infrastructure development, royalties, and corporate tax," he said.

He further said Asia Energy was a renowned company and follows all the international rules and must have to be profitable in the Phulbari project to get back its investment.

"We have shown some Bangladeshi journalists, bringing them to Australia, that open pit mining is possible in crowded areas also," he added.

[original text slightly modified]

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