Vol. 5 Num 430 Thu. August 11, 2005  

'Phulbari coal field can earn huge foreign exchange'

Open-pit mining in Phulbari coal field is the only commercially viable way, with a prospect of extracting 572 million tonnes of coal, geologists from home and abroad said at a seminar yesterday.

Open mining requires relocation of people and deforestation in the area, but it will help create a vibrant economy and bring in huge foreign exchange, they added.

The Delta Study Centre organised the seminar on 'Open-pit mining in Phulbari coal in Bangladesh' at the Geology Department of Dhaka University.

Gary Lye, chief executive officer of the Asia Energy Corporation, said previous records indicate that only 15 to 20 percent of coal can be extracted through underground mining method while open-pit mining has the prospect of extracting more than 90 percent of coal.

The government can earn a huge revenue and attract foreign investment, particularly in the power sector, which will create direct employment opportunities for 10,000 people and thousands of jobs in related industries, the CEO said.

The British company has already drilled more than 100 exploration holes in the Phulbari area and is waiting for final approval from the government. The feasibility study, along with the mining scheme, will be submitted by the end of September, Asia Energy sources said.

"As soon as the government approves the feasibility study, we shall start land acquisition and resettlement of the people," Gary Lye said, adding that compensation will be given to all the people who have land and other property in the area.

"Asia Energy will build a township along the Jamuna river and set up schools, hospitals, mosques and other necessary structures for the affected people," he said.

Prof Badrul Imam of Dhaka University said open mining will have some temporary negative impacts on society and environment in the region, but the huge resources can be used for the development of the country.

Professor Dr Hussain Monsur and Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) General Manager Dr Mushfiqur Rahman also spoke.