Wednesday, June 17, 2009

NRB experts divide over mining method, export of coal

Staff Correspondent, NewAge, June 17, 2009

The non-resident Bangladeshi experts are divided over the coal mining method, rate of royalty and coal export issue, said the sources present at the four-day workshop on coal policy that began at the Jamuna Resort in Tangail on Monday.

‘There was a clear division among the NRB experts who came from the USA and Australia. Majority of the experts, came from Australia, were in favour of open pit mining method, fixing low royalty rate and keeping the coal export issue open,’ said the sources.
 Eight NRB experts are attending the workshop on the coal mining method and coal policy,’ organised by the state-owned Petrobangla.

Two experts, came from the USA, highlighted the impact of open pit mining of coal on the environment and people, presenting the examples of the USA.
 They also opined that Bangladesh should not allow export of coal to secure its future energy reserve.

There was a ‘clear motive’ in projecting the underground mining at the Barapukuria coal field as a complete failure by the experts from Australia and their choice for open pit mining method, the sources said.
 Moreover they claimed that if the royalty rate was fixed at a higher rate, the cost of power generation using coal would get increased.

They also recommended that the coal policy should not impose ban on the coal export from Bangladesh.

The NRB experts are reviewing the draft coal policy that was prepared by an advisory committee, headed by former vice-chancellor of BUET, Abdul Matin Patwari.

The Patrwari committee recommended ban on coal export, development of coal fields under the leadership of the state-run companies, fixing royalty rate based on some criteria like coal price in the international market and operation of a small scale open pit mine at Barapukuria field to see the feasibility of such mining method in Bangladesh before going to apply it in other fields.

‘It seems that the workshop will adopt the recommendations of the experts, loyal to the UK-Australian company Asia Energy, who opposed the recommendations of the Patwari committee,’ the sources said adding that the ‘experts’ would come up with a complete set of recommendations today.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Port, and different rights groups are protesting at holding of the workshop by the government terming the ‘Jamuna Resort meeting’ a conspiracy to allow the controversial Asia Energy to extract coal through open pit mining method at Phulbari field and export of coal.