Bangladesh: Asia Energy makes new proposal for open-pit coal miningPublished by MAC on 2010-02-07
Source: New Age (Dhaka)
Early this month, the government of Bangladesh was reported to be favourably viewing a proposal by UK mining company, GCM Resources/Asia Energy, to share 10% of its equity in the much-pilloried Phulbari coal project.
The country's national association for the protection of its energy resource has reacted vehemently to this suggestion, accusing the ruling party of violating a deal made with local people and civil society organisations in 2006.
Bangladesh: Asia Energy makes new proposal for open-pit coal mining
Staff Correspondent, New Age (Dhaka)
2 February 2010
The [Bangladesh] government is considering 'positively' a new proposal of the UK-based Asia Energy which offered the government only 10 per cent stake in the Phulbari coal field for operating an open-pit mine, said sources in the government.
Besides, the government has also engaged the UNDP and German GTZ, which has supported open-pit mining in Bangladesh, for conducting a feasibility study for an open pit coal mine on the north flank of Barapukuria coal field, they said.
Asia Energy, which had submitted a controversial proposal for an open-pit coal mine at Phulbari in 2005, recently submitted another proposal to the energy and mineral resources division offering the government a 10 per cent share of the coal field without any government 'investment'.
Besides, the company also proposed to install a 5,000MW power plant at Phulbari using the coal of the open-pit mine, said sources. The company, which was formed centring on Phulbari coal field and has no previous experience in coal mining, claimed that it would provide the 'best price' for the land to be used for the proposed open-pit mine, they said.
'The government policymakers have discussed the new proposal. There is every indication that the government is actively and positively considering the proposal of Asia Energy. The energy division will send a summary on Asia Energy's new proposal to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, shortly for a decision,' said a source in the government adding that the company had recently started hectic lobbying for the proposed open-pit mine.
The company's earlier proposal for the open-pit mine was shelved after violent protests by the people of Phulbari as they feared the planned open-pit mine would displace more than 40,000 people.
The company in its initial study said that it would extract around 15 million tonnes of coal from the field that has a reserve of 572 million tonnes of coal. It said the government would get only 6 per cent royalty for the coal as per the agreement while it would also export coal.
It had also proposed that the company would install a power plant at the mine-mouth.
Energy experts and rights activists have warned that such an open-pit mine in the densely populated area and fertile land would badly impact the environment.
Besides, an expert committee formed by the government and headed by BUET professor Nurul Islam, termed 'illegal' Asia Energy's agreement with the government for the coal field and viewed that operating an open-pit mine at Phulbari would not be viable.
Three people were killed and several others were injured when law enforcers opened fire on thousands of people protesting at Asia Energy's planned open- pit mine at Phulbari in August 2006. The company was forced to leave Phulbari but has been lobbying successive governments to take over the coal field.
Sources in the government said Asia Energy became active as soon as the government of Awami League-led alliance took office.
The government, meanwhile, engaged the UNDP and GTZ for conducting a feasibility study to operate an open-pit mine in Barapukuria coal field, adjacent to Phulbari coal field.
'A three-party study engaging the government, UNDP and GTZ will be launched soon to study whether it would be possible to operate an open-pit mine in Barapukuria coal field,' said a source.
He said that on the basis of the study report, the government will finalise the coal policy.
When asked whether the study would be neutral as the GTZ had already supported open-pit mining, a high official of the ministry said that it would be impartial as representatives of the government and UNDP would be there.
A number of ministers of the present government have already visited some open-pit mines in Germany. GTZ arranged the visits.
Besides, the GTZ sponsored a number of seminars that recommended open-pit mining in Bangladesh.
Prime minister's adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury and state minister for power and energy Enamul Haque were not available for comments as they were in New York to attend a programme.
Committee demands expulsion of Asia Energy
Staff Correspondent, New Age (Dhaka)
5 February 2010
The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port on Thursday asked the [Bangladesh] government to immediately expel the UK-based Asia Energy in compliance with the deal signed in 2006.
The national committee's convener Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah and member secretary Anu Muhammad on Thursday issued a joint statement, calling upon the government to expel the company after realising due compensation from it.
They also warned the government against violating the 'blood-stained deal' that the then BNP-Jamaat government had been compelled to sign in the face of a mass movement. 'The people of the country, who voted Awami League to power, will in no way accept any renewal of the deal, which will amount to betrayal,' said the statement.
Expressing their concern over latest developments regarding the Phulbari and Bara Pukuria coalmines, they said that news have been printed in several dailies that the government is considering 'positively' a new proposal from Asia Energy.
It was also learnt that a minister has spearheaded a campaign to change the attitude of the people in favour of Asia Energy, they said.
Recalling a statement made by the then opposition leader and the incumbent premier, Sheikh Hasina, on 4 September, 2006, the statement said, 'It is the present prime minister who cautioned the then prime minister, Khaleda Zia, against violating the deal signed on 30 August, 2006.'
'The government will have to face dire consequences if the deal is not followed duly', Sheikh Hasina was quoted to have said in the statement in 2006.
They warned that open-pit mining in the densely populated area and fertile land would badly affect the environment.
The national committee asked the government to ensure the nation's cent per cent ownership of the coal, and not to keep any scope for exporting the coal which should be used only for meeting the local demand for energy.
Asia Energy's earlier proposal for open-pit mining was shelved after violent protests by the people of Phulbari as they feared it would displace more than 40,000 people.
Three people were killed and several others injured when the police opened fire on hundreds of people protesting against Asia Energy's planned open-pit mining at Phulbari in August 2006. The company was forced to leave Phulbari but has been lobbying successive governments to get permission to mine the coalfield.