A government-appointed firm has recommended the open cut method to maximise coal extraction by Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Limited (BCMCL) in Dinajpur.
The Australian consultancy firm, John T Boyd, placed the suggestion at a meeting at the Petrobangla Auditorium in the presence of the state minister for energy and power and the secretary of the Energy Division.
“If we consider the traditional underground method, the percentage of recovery will be only 4 per cent from the northern side of the mine. But if we consider the open cut method, the recovery rate would be 75 to 90 per cent. So, Petrobangla can review the risibility study to encourage the open cut method,” said a report by the firm.
However, those in the know said the government may not be willing to take a decision on the recommended method as it may snowball into a social and political issue ahead of the national election later this year.
In 2006, protests erupted against Asia Energy when it had proposed to go for the open pit method at the Fulbari coal field. The government was later forced to reject the proposal.
“I think the government will not consider open cut or pit mining at Barapukuria. I remember that during the 2006 agitation at Fulbari, the then opposition party Awami League had opposed the open cut method,” Prof. Badrul Imam told after attending John T Boyd’s presentation programme as an academic.
On their part, policymakers asked the consultancy firm about the possible problems if BCMCL went for the open cut method.
“We have urged them to send the final report and then we will forward it to the ministry concerned for consideration,” said a Petrobangla official.
The Australian consultancy firm said that the BCMCL southern part (3 sq km area) has 62 million tons of coal reserve and the northern part (1.5 sq km) has 92 million tons of coal reserve.
If underground aquifers are considered, the recovery will be only 4 million tons in the northern part and 10 million tons in the southern part. Since the coal reserves are at a depth of 200 metres from the soil, the period of recovery from teh two parts would be 10 years, it said. At present, BCMCL is recovering coal from the central part (3 sq km) of the mine. It has been able to extract only 10 million tons of coal out of a total of 390 million tons of reserve since 2005. Recently, Bangladesh Power Development officials found that 1.44 lakh tons of coal had disappeared when the yards dried up after suspension of coal production for developing a new site.