MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2007-06-13



13th June 2007

Shillong: Authorities in Meghalaya yesterday held a public hearing seeking the views of tribal villagers about uranium mining amid a general strike and protests by several groups opposing the government move.

"The hearing concluded peacefully with some 400 to 500 people participating. Some of them were against the move while there were people who supported the government's plans for uranium mining," H.S. Shylla, chairman of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC), a constitutional body to preserve traditional laws and culture, told IANS.

The Meghalaya State Pollution Control Board had called for the public hearing at village Nongbah Jynrin, about 135km west of capital Shillong, to elicit local opinion on mining the yellow cake.

The mandatory hearing was necessary to get clearance from the Environment Ministry and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) for carrying out opencast mining.

"We are yet to get full details of the views expressed by the locals at the hearing," said Shylla.

The hearing was held amidst tight security with the powerful Khasi Students' Union (KSU) enforcing a 36-hour general strike from 5am on Monday to prevent the meeting from taking place, saying emission of radioactive uranium would pose serious health hazards.

Life in Shillong has been paralysed with all shops, businesses and government offices remaining closed for the second day Tuesday due to the strike called by KSU. "We shall continue with the fight and see to it that the Uranium Corporation of India is not able to take up exploration work. The health hazards and risks involved in such a mission are tremendous and we cannot allow our people to die," John F. Kharshiing, chairman of the Federation of Khasi states, a powerful tribal group, told IANS.

Surveys conducted by the Atomic Energy Department show that there could be up to 10,000 tonnes of uranium in and around Domiasiat, 150km from Shillong.

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