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UCIL pre-mining development activities on hold in Meghalaya

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 - 20:12

Shillong: Meghalaya government on Wednesday decided
to put on hold the UCIL`s pre-mining development work in
uranium-rich areas of the state and formed a committee to look
into the apprehensions expressed by the protesting groups.

The decision was taken by the government during a meeting
with representatives of the agitation organisations led by
influential Khasi Students Union (KSU).

Chief Minister D D Lapang said after the meeting that the
committee to be named, Joint Committee on Uranium Mining,
"will try to address concerns expressed by the organisations".

The committee has been given three months for giving its
recommendations, after which the government would decide
whether to go ahead with the pre-mining development work, he

It would comprise members from the agitation groups,
scientists, environmentalists and other experts and chaired by
Deputy Chief Minister (in-charge, mining) B M Lanong.

Lapang, however, dismissed claims by the protesting
groups that the pre-project development activities by the UCIL
was meant to facilitate the uranium mining project.

"As per an agreement with the UCIL, the project is
divided into two phases – development work and the actual
mining. We had only given the nod for development activities,"
Lapang said.

The KSU has been protesting the Lapang cabinet`s decision
to lease 422 hectare in uranium-rich West Khasi Hills district
to UCIL for pre-project development work. The UCIL had agreed
to earmark Rs 209 crore to take up health care, power,
drinking water, educational institutions and roads.

Deputy Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said the committee
would create a platform for engagement of all stakeholders to
mitigate all concerns, including apprehensions of health and
environmental hazards.

The committee would hold workshops, panel discussions,
debates and tours before giving recommendations, he said.

KSU president Samuel Jyrwa said the student body was
satisfied with the government decision, but said if any health
or environmental hazards came to the notice of the committee,
it would decide its future course of action then.

The state had witnessed sporadic incidents of violence,
torching of vehicles and government offices, during seven
night road blockades called last month.

The mining issue in Meghalaya has been hanging fire for
more than two decades with prominent NGOs and political
parties vehemently opposed to the proposal on the grounds that
it would lead to degradation of the environment besides
opening the floodgates for outsiders into the tribal state.

Explorations by Atomic Minerals Directorate for
Exploration and Research done two decades ago estimated there
could be over 16,000 tonne of uranium ore in the Mahadek Basin
of the state.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, November 4, 2009 - 20:12

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