Nepal to look for uranium near Tibet border

August 4th, 2011 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 4 (IANS) Nepal is gearing up to explore for uranium mines in its remote mountainous north, adjoining the border with Tibet, more than two decades after preliminary studies suggested the mineral is present in northern, southern and central Nepal.

“The science and technology ministry has been given approval by the cabinet to conduct preliminary explorations in a 150 sq km area in Mustang,” said Krishna Dev Jha, senior engineer at the mines and geology department.

“The work will start this year.”

There were three earlier surveys conducted for the precious mineral from 1992-94 during which visible uranium deposits were found in several areas.

These have the Siwalik mountain ranges, rich in minerals, running through them: Buka khola in Sindhuli district, Tinbhangale, Chandi Kola and Chiruwa Khola (Makwanpur), Mardar Khola and Panpa Khola (Chitwan) and Jamari Gad, Bangabagar, Baggoth and Gorang (Baitadi).

Explorations for gold also revealed the presence of uraninite, the chief ore of uranium, in four remote western regions - Darchula, Bajhang, Baitadi and Bajura - which have been ruled out for exploration, for now, due to the inaccessibility of the terrain.

While the studies indicated Tinbhangale to be the most promising site, the preliminary exploration will start in the Lo Manthang area of Upper Mustang, a former Tibetan kingdom that is also a sensitive area from where in the past Tibetan resistance fighters waged a guerrilla battle against the Chinese army invading Tibet.

It took more than two decades to get the project rolling as Nepal lacks a testing laboratory as well as equipment to scout for the radio-active mineral.

The republic will be helped by South Korea’s state-run Korean Institute of Geo-science and Mineral Resources.

Nepal’s parliament as well as the then chief justice in 2010 had expressed concern at the government’s tardiness in tapping a priceless mineral resource.

The potential presence of uranium in Nepal’s mountainous north as well as Terai plains in the south could also become a matter of concern for its two giant neighbours, China and India.

Though Nepal has no nuclear facilities where uranium could be used, Jha says in view of the acute energy crisis in the country, a uranium mine would mean the possibility of generating nuclear energy.

Mustang remains high on the Chinese radar with Beijing wary of movements there, fearing fresh grouping of Tibetan guerrillas and the proliferation of arms in Tibet’s border areas through Mustang.

The effort in Nepal to tap its uranium potential comes close on the heels of the discovery of a huge uranium mine in India’s Andhra Pradesh state.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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