Uranium mining in Meghalaya finally takes shape

By D. Henpilen

Shillong (Meghalaya), Nov 14 : A much-awaited uranium-mining project, which promises development of the remote West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya, is finally taking shape.

The State governments decision to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to implement its pre-project developmental package has elicited a positive response from locals.

The state has estimated the presence of about 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits. The UCIL would invest Rs 2.09 billion to undertake pre-developmental project activities to build schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.

For this purpose, the state government has agreed to release 422 square hectares of land for 30 years to the UCIL.

My press conference is to initiate a more serious debate on the merits and demerits of Uranium mining in the benefits and otherwise on allowing UCIL to start uranium mining right now. I hope that through this press conference it will generate more intelligent debates among the people of the state and I think thestate government also should not be in a hurry to take a decision right now. They should allow the public air out their views and opinion on uranium mining, said Micheal Syiem, a social worker.

The state government does not have its own fund, it all depends on the central government. So there are still many areas to be developed. So by the fund we receive from the central, it is not enough. So special funds that comes from the government of India that we have found theuranium so it is a blessing to the state. If left to the state alone, it will take years to develop. So now, they have got a road up to Mawthabah from Wahkaji it has been a blessing for them, said S.H.Shylla, former MLA, West Khasi Hills District.

There were protests against the mining of Uranium by different organisations in the State citing health hazards.

However, the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) has already executed exploratory mining in the area including processing the ore to yellow cake.

It has also confirmed that there will be no spill over effect on health either to the inhabitants or the cattle.

As a villager of Mawthabah I find that as per the research carried out by the department of Atomic Energy since surveying, drilling up to refining of the yellow cake there is no track of health hazard till date. Even in the place where the grinding machine and the processing plant is laid, now trees have grown and vegetation is green and there are no signs of such affect to the vegetation, said W.S.Lyngdoh, a villager, Mawthabah.

Various public hearings at the proposed site for open cast mining have also been organised in which residents and headmen of various villages surrounding the proposeduranium project site participated.

The State Government has also constituted an expert committee on health to study the implications of uranium mining.