Self-Styled Oil , Gas and Port Protection Committee [OGPC] of Bangladesh is spearheading a long march from Dhaka – Phulbari with 7 points demand to thwart government plan for exploration of domestic coal at a time when Bangladesh issuffering from the worst ever energy crisis of its lifetime. The crisis is mainly due to inadequate supply of fuel –gas and coal .Bangladesh has substantial reserve of petroleum in frontier and huge proven reserve of high quality untapped coal. Incidentally it is launched at a time when Jamat- BNP alliance is allegedly hatching conspiracy against democratically elected grand alliance government to create barriers for trials of War Criminals and investigations of several acts of terrorism. We are getting increasingly confused about the intentions and motives behind OGPC agitation as their impudent action is creating confusion among potential investors and policy makers. People are wondering whether war criminals are making dress rehearsal through B team.
Among other demands OGPC backed up by minor left leaning satellite parties are demanding
- No to Open Pit Mining of Coal Resources.
- No to Foreign Companies for Coal and Gas Exploration
- No to Export of Coal and Gas.
- Scrap the contract of Asia Energy for Mining at Phulbari.
Let us deal these one by one. It cannot be denied that present government like its predecessorshas miserably failed to adopt the appropriate strategy for exploration and exploitation of our own resources and make professional utilization of resources .It has also in operation and maintenance of existing infrastructures professionally so far. Elected government is dominated by opportunist beauracrats. Inappropriate government vision and amateur management have deepened crisis and the situation is getting from bad to worse day by day. Instead of exploring and exploiting our precious resources misguided government is pursuing unworkable expensive import strategy of Coal and LNG. There are no political protests or civil spocity anxiety for these self-destructive approaches.
No to Open Pit Mining:
There is no professional mining engineer and mining geologist in service now. All retired mining professionals and experienced energy sector professionals are convinced that Bangladesh must now explore its substantial coal resource applying the most technically appropriate and finmacially viable open pit method. Prevailing Geology, overburden, depth and thickness of coal seam, presence of active aquifer support only open pit mining in 4 out of 5 discovered coal mines. The amateur attempts of underground long wall mining at Barapukuria has already turned it into a white elephant and istriggering disaster. Yet the agitators arecreating hue and cry against open pit mining. Our coal is of much superior quality than even of neighboring India which exports its inferior low quality polluting coal to Bangladesh. Significant volume of polluting coal is also smuggled into Bangladesh through porous border. These pollute Bangladesh environment. No one has ever heard that OGPC has ever protested against this.
Off late some section of less informed theoreticians are urging for Underground Coal Gasification of Coal. This was a failed method in Former SoveitUnion.Off late some Australian mines are trying this and use coal seam gas. This author considers that other than Jamalganj deep mine it cannot be applied in other mines for technical reasons. Even at Jamalgonj which cannot be explored by traditional means a feasibility study for UCG can be carried out. But at Phulbari and Barapukuria Open pit mining is the only feasible option.A combination of open and underground ming can be applied for the other two mines at Dighipara and Khalaspeer.Although mining is not a rocket science yet it needs lot of intensive works of line professionals to develop a mine. Academicians and nonprofessionals can only do research but mining must be left to miners alone. Bangladesh hardly possesses any active miner.
Modern open pit mining safeguards against all impacts in a much professional manner. The mined area is mostly rehabilitated to original and better state excepting the last section. The surface and subsurface water is managed professionally. Theaffected community is relocated and rehabilitated and their economic activities are restored. Smart persons know about these.But still they misguide policy makers.
OGPC activists and satellite politicians who on their own credential will never win any election in Bangladesh are opposing open pit mining. Their actions are assisting a section of energy mafias who want to continue importing or bringing into Bangladesh dirty polluting coal from across the border. There cannot be any logic to protect against any particular method of mining. It is OUTRAGEOUS AND ILLOGICAL AND AGAINST NATIONAL INTEREST.
No to Foreign Companies for Oil and Gas Exploration:
Oil, Gas and Coal exploration requires huge risk capital and state of the art modern technology. None of the state owned enterprises have technical capability or financial resources to accomplish mining .Over the last decade or so lack of proper market signal and incentives caused minimum or no exploration of petroleum and natural resources. Few foreign companies abandoned their operations . Bangladesh also failed to allocate resources for exploration of its own. The present situation can only be confronted through engagement of capable foreign companies through transparent bidding process. Still OPC is agitating against foreign investment and government has enacted indemnity bill for engaging developers through entertaining unsolicited offers. Both are equally destructive.
No to Export of Coal and Gas:
No sensible person can support export of gas and coal till there is viable domestic market .But one must not completely shut export window as situation will always arise when export of some amount of energy will encourage exploration and development of resources . There may be some situation where for technical reasons export will be essential specially in case of active coal mines. The present gas epidemic has arisen for not providing the required market signal to UNOCAL in early 2000.But there must not be provision for uncontrolled export of energy.
Scrap Contract of Asia Energy:
Two democratic Government: BNP in 1994 and Awami League in 1998 signed contracts of mine exportation and developing international companies for exploration and mining of coal at Phulbari. BHP Billiton the largest mining company of the world discovered Phulbari mine. Another company Asia Energy after carrying out extensive feasibility studies through accredited mining consulting companies and following all laid down provisions of Minining Act subsmitted Scheme of Development in late 2005 for mining. A group of opportunits failing to get illegal benefits from developers created artificaial crisis in the mining community .There are enough live evidences that the Phulbari unfortunate incident took place through conspiracy of a particular vested quarter. Following that the failed government at that time instead of handling the matter properly bowed down to illegitimate demand of agitators. Can the contract between soverien government with and International Company be scrapped wsithout establishing their default? Will the agitators bear the huge financial damage that the government will have to bear when such unilateral termination of contract will lead to arbitration?
The suffering citizen of Bangladesh must realize that this group of agitators are also responsible along with opportunists beauracrats and failed politicians for the present sufferings. There are no valid logic for their impudent actions. Wonder why the chronological development of Phulbari tragedy is not thrpoughly investigated? Why the persons who triggered the crisis through instigating innocent victims are not surfaced? Wghat were the terms of reference of the committee formed to evaluate AEC submitted Scheme of Development? Why Government cannotreconvene a meeting of all 12 members of that expert committee and ask each individuals about their opinion? What situation led to formulation of Coal policy in 2005? Why all governments are unnecessarily wasting time on coal policy? Posterity will curse the present bunch of failed politicians policy makers for their massive failures in dealing with the most important and essential service –energy supply.
People must understand the ill motives of agitators and time has arrived to socially resist them. Democratic government must carry out the task entrusted upon them by the voters. They must take take appropriate actions to explore and exploit natural resources professionally to create long term energy security failing which people may throw them into bins.