Barapukuria coal mine

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Barapukuria coal mine is an underground coal mine at Barapuluria in the Dinajpur District in Bangladesh. The mine is operated by Barapukuria Coal Mining Co. Ltd (BCMCL), the coal mining subsidiary of Petrobangla, a government owned oil, gas and mining company.

The U.S. Geological Suervey reports that "the coal mine had a production capacity of 1 Mt/yr of coal. Coal extraction was by long-wall mining. The coal was delivered to a thermal powerplant. Development work of the next long-wall coal face was underway, and production was expected to begin in 2007," the USGS reports.[1]

Impacts

The 2,500-acre underground mine includes 650 acres of agricultural land on the surface. The International Accountability Project reports that mining operations at Barapukuria have destroyed roughly 300 acres of land, impacting about 2,500 people in seven villages, as land subsidence of over one meter in depth has destroyed crops and lands and damaged homes. People in 15 villages have also reportedly lost their access to water, as huge quantities of water pumped out for the Barapukuria mine caused a rapid drop in water levels.[2]

Those affected by land subsidence are seeking compensation and repair of their homes. The Daily Star reports that the mine’s operator, Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd, has proposed building and resettling them in eight to ten “tin sheds”. Faced with resistance by people in Barapukuria, Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the energy adviser to the prime minister, announced that the government was considering plans to establish a "Coal City" near Barapukuria, which would provide housing and new sources of livelihood for victims of land subsidence. According to Towfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the resettlement of people whose homes have been destroyed is to be carried out in phases. The Coal City would initially be designed to provide homes and livelihoods for 10,000 families, but may ultimately expand to 100,000 families.[2]

Since coal mining began in 2005, there have been a series of fatal and near-fatal accidents, including the death of a British mining expert caused by inhaling poisonous gases, a gas leakage accident in 2005 that required the closing and sealing off a portion of the mine, and a roof cave-in on May 11, 2010 that killed one worker and wounded 19 people. Engineers report that government policy makers have failed to heed their warnings about inadequate health, safety and environmental provisions in the Barapukuria mine, with some stating that standard safety procedures are virtually non-existent at the mine.[2]

Open-pit mining

In October 2010, the Bangladesh government said it plans to develop the northern part of Barapukuria coalmine through the open pit mining method to boost coal output and feed proposed coal-fired power plants in the future. The energy ministry want to use the Barapukuria coalmine as a pilot project for open pit mining in Bangladesh. The Prime Ministed has asked the energy ministry to move forward with the plan, according to a senior energy ministry official. The government would conduct a feasibility study before undertaking the open pit mining method instead of the current underground mining.

Officials said the planned northern part of Barapukuria coalmine has 271 hectares of land, where around 5,000 villagers have either dwellings or farm lands. The government said it will compensate the affected people; each of the affected families might get Tk 2.0 million for each acre, according to a senior Barapukuria Coal Mining Company official.

The vicinity of the Barapukuria coal mine is facing land subsidence from underground mining. The first land subsidence was reported in 2005, when the Chinese consortium led by China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) had just completed development of the coal mine. Another land subsidence took place in 2008, affecting croplands, commercial and domestic spaces, houses and many other infrastructures. The villagers then forced a halt to extraction of coal from the country's lone operational mine. Coal production, however, resumed after compensating the affected locals.[3]

According to The Daily Sun, to ensure uninterrupted coal production, the government has a plan to "rehabilitate affected people in Barapukuria coalmine sites by 2012."[4]

Protests against open pit mining

On May 5, 2011, locals blocked railways and a highway protesting the government's plan for open pit mining at the Barapukuria Coal Mine. The demonstrators - under the banner of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Minerals Resources, Power and Port - numbered in the thousands, and demanded compensation for loss of aman crops and postponement of the ongoing land survey. Hundreds of people from Chowhaati, Durgapur, Shahgram, Rambhadrapur, Yousufpur and Bagra villages attacked the 'National Committee' members. At least five people were injured during the ten-minute-long clash.[5]

On July 9, 2012, at least 20 people, including three policemen, were injured as thousands of villagers protested around Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd (BCMCL) in Dinajpur and clashed with police. The protestors were demanding disbursement of money granted under the authorities' compensation package; the affected people have been agitating since 2009 after at least 627 acres of land subsided at 10 villages. Police fired 20 rounds of teargas canisters during the clash.[6]

Renewing the mine agreement

Ahead of the the August 2011 expiry of the initial mine development agreement with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC), the Barapukuria Coal Mining Company sought expressions of interest from mining companies for the further expansion of the mine. While Peabody expressed interest in the project[7] but ultimately the sole bidder was the existing operator, a consortium comprising Xuzhou Coal Mining Group Company and CMC. BCMC entered into a new contract for a further six years with the expectation that output from the mine - running at approximately 800,000 tonnes in 2011 - would double the following year. Approximately 70% of the output from the mine is supplied to the existing Barapukuria coal fired power station.[8]

In its 2011 annual report BCMC stated that in the new contract a target annual production of 5.5 million tonnes of coal a year has been assumed.[9] Part of the output from the proposed expansion would be for the proposed Barapukuria 3rd Unit, a 250 megawatt expansion of the existing Barapukuria Coal Power Plant.

Workers strike

On August 23, 2011, Barapukuria coal miners and staffers stopped production at the mine, demanding regularisation of their jobs. During the last three years, miners have staged several agitation programmes, including work stoppages, demanding regularisation of employment so that they can have benefits like insurance and pension packages, which they have yet to receive. The union leaders said that they were forced to strike as negotiations with the district administration ended in failure on August 22.[10]

Corruption charges

In September 2015, the Bangladesh High Court cleared the way for former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and five other officials to be tried on corruption charges. The Anti-Corruption Commission alleges that the contract entered into with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) to operate the Barapukuria mine deprived the national government of over US$20 million. Zia is leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and argues the charges are politically motivated.[11]

Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. Chin S. Kuo, The Mineral Industry of Bangladesh: 2007, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, December 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kate Hoshour, "Massive protest against Phulbari & Barapukuria coal mines in Bangladesh" International Accountability Project, March 4, 2011.
  3. M Azizur Rahman, "Open-pit mining for Barapukuria planned" Financial Express, Oct. 18, 2010.
  4. "Govt to produce 20,000MW power from coal-fired plants" Daily Sun, May 22, 2011.
  5. "Siege protesting open pit mining to continue today" The Daily Star, May 5, 2011.
  6. "20 injured as Dinajpur land subsidence victims, cops clash," The Daily Star, July 9, 2012.
  7. Saleem Samad, "US energy giant Peabody keen to mine coal in Bangladesh" All Headline News, March 18, 2011
  8. "Govt to sign coalmine contract with China consortium again", Financial Express, October 25, 2011.
  9. Barapukuria Coal Mining Company, "Annual Report 2011", Barapukuria Coal Mining Company, page 30.
  10. "Miners strike halts Barapukuria coal production for 2nd day" The Daily Star, Aug. 24, 2011.
  11. "Bangladesh HC orders trial against Khaleda Zia in coal mine graft case," Economic Times, Sep 17, 2015

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