Shillong, Aug 1 (IANS) The Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) on Wednesday said it would stop exploratory drilling for uranium-rich deposits in Meghalaya’s South West Khasi Hills district bordering Bangladesh.
The decision came after three AMD officials, including a scientist, were assaulted last week while they were working trying to extract samples from small boreholes for laboratory purposes.
“The department has taken a very conscious view that we will respect the sentiments of the people. We will not venture for mining without taking into account the sentiments of the people,” AMD regional director Sandeep Hamilton told journalists.
Hamilton met Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Executive Member in-charge Mines and Minerals, Latiplang Kharkongor.
Noting that AMD is not involved in uranium mining in Meghalaya’s South West Khasi Hills district, Hamilton said: “We are into research work for atomic minerals, not only uranium, but other things as well. The AMD has got the mandate for search and research for atomic minerals, but no mandate for mining.”
“Mining is being done by a different agency and our work ends after the search and research of atomic minerals which include a number of elements not only uranium,” he added.
Meghalaya is the third uranium-rich state in the country after Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
The Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) has proposed to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Maghalaya’s Mawthabah. It had pegged Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah project in Meghalaya for Rs 1,100 crore.
The ores are spread over a mountainous terrain in deposits varying from eight to 47 metres from the surface in and around Domiasiat, 135 km west from Shillong.
The previous Congress-led Meghalaya government had annulled the decision taken during the previous D.D. Lapang regime to lease 422 hectares of land to UCIL for pre-mining activities in South West Khasi Hill district.
The proposed open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya’s South West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups expressed fears of radiation impact on human health and environmental degradation.