Meghalaya civil groups oppose uranium mining project

November 10th, 2010 - 7:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Shillong, Nov 10 (IANS) Anti-mining groups in Meghalaya Wednesday vowed that they would continue to oppose a uranium mining project, while the central government set 2012 as the year to start mining in the state’s West Khasi Hills district.

“We have reiterated our stand on uranium mining and we will not allow anyone to mine this radioactive mineral in Meghalaya,” Hamletson Dohling, the top leader of the influential Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) said after attending an awareness meeting on uranium mining.

The awareness meeting hosted by Atomic Mineral Department and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, was attended by several other civil society groups. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma along with his cabinet ministers and legislators attended the awareness meeting Tuesday.

The Rs.1,100 crore (about $240 million) Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah (KPM) uranium mining project has been stalled after the KSU and other civil society groups opposed it, fearing harm to the environment and health of people living in adjoining areas.

The Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) has proposed to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah. Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

Emlang Lyttan, president of Federation of Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Peoples, termed the awareness meeting as “another desperate attempt” of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and UCIL officials to forcefully convince people of Meghalaya to allow uranium mining.

“How can we allow them to start this mining project when they themselves cannot give satisfactory answers on health and environment impact of uranium mining,” Lyttan said.

Meghalaya People’s Human Rights Council Secretary General D.D.G. Dympep, who walked out of the awareness meeting, said that the Council will continue to oppose uranium mining.

Reiterating that there can be no dialogue possible on the life and liberty of “our people”, Angela Rangad, the front leader of Women Against Uranium Mining in Meghalaya, said uranium mining in the state would only bring death and destruction and not development.

However, DAE officials said that the opposition against mining is part of the process of the ongoing dialogue to convince people about the project.

“We have plans to start the KPM project by 2012 but we still have to get the necessary clearance from the Meghalaya government to start,” S.K. Malhotra, head of the public awareness division of the Department of Atomic Energy, told reporters.

He said eight pre-projects - land, health, flora and fauna survey - in the proposed mining areas are under way.

“We need to have patience and we are looking forward to start the project soon. We have firm belief that this project will take off one day as some are already convinced of the safety standards,” Malhotra said.

The union ministry of environment and forests has accorded permission to UCIL to start mining for the annual production of 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore and processing of 1,500 tonnes of the mineral ore per day in the West Khasi Hills district.

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