Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered a full investigation into the disappearance of 116,000 tonnes of coal from the Barapukuria mine in Dinajpur.
Amidst intense discussions over the issue, Hasina went to the Secretariat on Monday and held a meeting with State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu, secretaries to related departments, Petrobangla Chairman Abul Mansur Md Faizullah and other relevant officials.
“The prime minister has ordered a complete investigation,” Nasrul told reporters after the meeting.
“Because, it (the misappropriation) had been happening since around 2005. The prime minister has asked us to let everyone know about this.
“She has asked all to have patience,” he said.
Asked whether Hasina was angry about the issue, Nasrul said, “Of course. She is the minister for this division.”
The state minister also said Petrobangla has already been ordered to start a case over the disappearance of the coal.
Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Managing Director Habib Uddin Ahmed and others have been accused of selling the coal for approximately Tk 2 billion through fraud, abuse of power and other illegal and corrupt means.
The coal-fired Barapukuria thermal power plant stopped generating power on Sunday due to a shortage of fuel from the mine.
Coal from Barapukuria mine is used to generate power. Coal from Barapukuria mine is used to generate power. Coal extraction has remained suspended since Jun 16 due to machinery transfer, but mining will resume at the end of August, according to coalmine authorities.
The authorities have taken action against five top officials of the mining company over the disappearance of the extracted coal.
General Manager Nuruzzaman Chowdhury and Deputy General Manager Khaledul Islam have been suspended.
Managing Director Habib has been removed and attached to the Petrobangla chairman’s office while General Manager Abul Kashem Prodhania has been transferred to Pashchimanchal Gas Company Ltd.
Ayub Khan, a director of Petrobangla, has been appointed managing director of the mining company and joined his new office.
The state minister also pointed finger at the mining company officials.
“The Power Division has been saying for two months that a crisis of coal is ongoing, but the chief engineer there (at the plant) denied the claim. Finally, an investigation team from the division unveiled the truth,” Nasrul said.
Petrobangla formed a three-member committee on Friday with one of its directors, Md Kamruzzman, as the head to investigate the alleged corruption.
It would submit the report by Tuesday, Nasrul hoped. “They have been asked to report the whereabouts of the coal,” he said.
“I was not done in one day. Many say it started in 2005. We also want to investigate those who had acted behind the scenes at the time,” the state minister said.
He also criticised Petrobangla for the ‘lack of supervision’ on its part.
The Anti-Corruption Commission has launched a separate investigation into the alleged graft in the mine.
A three-member ACC team of investigators visited Barapukuria on Monday and said it found no trace of 144,000 tonnes of coal in the mine yard.
‘One more month for normalcy’
Officials fear a power crisis may hit eight districts of Rangpur Division, especially Dinajpur, due to the shutdown of the Barapukuria Power Plant.
The districts, which need 650MW power every day, were getting only 150MW from the plant for past one month after two of its three units were closed earlier, Northern Electric Supply Company Limited (NESCO) Chief Engineer (Rangpur region) Shahdat Hossain Sarker told bdnews24.com.
“Now the shortage has increased,” he said and added they fear more power cuts besides a shortage of voltage.
The PDB is now looking for alternatives to the Barapukuria plant for supplying power to the northern districts.
It would take around one more month for the situation to normalise after resumption of extraction by the end of August, the state minister said.
He offered apologies for the inconvenience and asked the subscribers to bear with them.
NESCO Chief Engineer Shahadat said two more plants with a capacity of 20MW each in Rangpur and Syedpur are supplying power to these areas.
The authorities were also trying to tackle the situation by sharing power from plants in Sirajganj, he said.