UCIL pre-mining development activities on hold in Meghalaya
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 04, 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 said.

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 04, 2009, 20:12

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