Meghalaya to seek scientific opinion on uranium mining

Shillong, March 2 (Calcutta Tube) A government-constituted committee in Meghalaya Tuesday decided to seek scientific opinion on the overall effects of uranium mining.

The decision was taken at the first sitting of the Joint Committee on Uranium Mining in Meghalaya (JCUMM) headed by Deputy Chief Minister Bindo M. Lanong, who is in charge of state mining and geology.

However, two anti-uranium mining groups — Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) and Coordination Committee of Social Organisations (CCSO) — boycotted the meeting to protest the inclusion of the Association of Meghalaya for Development Advancement (AMDA), a forum of pro-uranium group, in the JCUMM.

Lanong told reporters that the committee decided to write to an independent institute associated with nuclear physics for ‘definite and objective presentation from independent sources on the overall effects of uranium mining and suggest precautionary measures.’

He said the committee also wanted to involve more experts who can advise and give opinion on the subject, and added that the next meeting of the JCUMM would be held by April end or early May.

The committee would also visit Mawthabah, the uranium-rich area in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, after the budget session of the state assembly.

‘The members of the committee would meet people of the area and hear their views on the proposed uranium mining in the area,’ he added.

When asked about the KSU and CCSO boycott, the deputy chief minister said the matter would be taken up after talks with the groups. ‘The committee will look into the matter. It would try to involve everyone concerned with regards to uranium mining in the state.’

Chief Minister D.D. Lapang set up the JCUMM November last year after protests against the Rs.209-crore first phase Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) development project in the mineral-rich area of West Khasi Hills district.

AMDA, a conglomerate of various non-governmental organisations from the district, supports the state government’s initiative.

A government official said the UCIL would invest Rs.209 crore to undertake pre-developmental project activities to build schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.

The union ministry of environment and forests has given clearance to the UCIL to start mining in the state, triggering strong protests from local parties and non-government organisations.

The UCIL plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral a day.

It has also proposed to set up a Rs.1,046-crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant in Meghalaya, which has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.

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