Vol. 4 Num 155 Wed. October 29, 2003  

Sand mineral resources
Conduct feasibility study for commercial use
Speakers suggest at JCB-Shaptahik 2000 roundtable

As an estimate shows over 1.7 million tonnes of proven reserve of sand minerals in Bangladesh, experts yesterday urged the government to conduct a feasibility study on commercial viability of the resources.

Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) estimated in its survey that the beaches of the country have sand minerals deposits of zircon, eluminite, magnetite and garnet that could be extracted for commercial utilisation.

Scientists discovered the huge reserves of valuable minerals called 'black gold' in Cox's Bazar, Teknaf and Kuakata sea-beaches and Saint Martin's, Kutubdia, Nijhum Dweep and Maheshkhali islands in 1960s.

But the government is yet to undertake any commercial survey which is vital for going for extraction, observed discussants at a roundtable on 'Potential opportunities from beach sand minerals deposit in Bangladesh' in Dhaka.

Junior Chamber Bangladesh (JCB) Dhaka West chapter and Shaptahik 2000, a weekly news magazine, jointly organised the discussion at Brac Centre Inn.

Expressing concern over the gradual depletion of the minerals stock the speakers said indecision of government is exposing the resources to depletion with increasing human habitation and construction on the reserves sites.

They said if government does not intend to do the feasibility study it should engage private sector to do it. The commercial extraction of the minerals would give value addition to ceramics, glass, plastic, iron and paint industry, they observed.

Speaking at the roundtable, State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain said the ministry would soon sit with experts and stakeholders to work out a strategy on how to best utilise the resources.

"The government with the help of experts will soon formulate a policy on the beach mineral resources giving priority to private sector-led exploration and commercial production," he said.

For optimum utilisation of the resources, coordination among BAEC, Geological Survey of Bangladesh and Petrobangla is imperative. "Experts of different universities, private sector people and users should also come forward with suggestions," Mosharraf said.

Australian High Commissioner in Dhaka Lorraine Barker assured help in extraction of such resources and said Bangladesh should extract its mineral resources at the maximum level as it gives more value addition to export products.

"Being world's largest extractor of beach mineral resources Australia would provide technical help to Bangladesh in exploring its sand resources," she said.

Referring to International Titanium Company which is conducting a primary survey in Cox's Bazar beach, the envoy said the Australian company has termed Bangladesh's sand mineral resources having 'international standard.'

Industries Secretary Shoaib Ahmed said government and private sector should work together and share information for optimum utilisation of the resources.

Presided over by Safina Rahman, president of JCB Dhaka West, the roundtable was also addressed by Anwar Hossain, former chairman of BAEC, ASMA Haseeb, department of Minerals and Metallurgical Engineering, BUET, ASW Kurny, department of Minerals and Metallurgical Engineering, BUET, Lutfor Rahman, vice chancellor of Pundra University of Science and Technology, Md Minhazul Islam Chowdhury, director, Beach Sand Minerals Exploitation Centre, Cox's Bazar, BAEC, AKM Shahidul Hasan, former dierctor of Geological Survey of Bangladesh, Shaptahik 2000 Editor Shahadat Chowdhury, The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam and Syed Almas Kabir, national president of JCB.

(From left to right) Industries Secretary Shoaib Ahmed, State Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain, Australian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Lorraine Barker, Shaptahik 2000 Editor Shahadat Chowdhury and Junior Chamber Bangladesh Dhaka West chapter President Safina Rahman are seen at a roundtable on 'Potential opportunities from beach sand minerals deposit in Bangladesh.' Junior chamber and Shaptahik 2000 jointly organised the seminar in Dhaka yesterday. PHOTO: STAR