Shillong, May 7 (IANS) The Meghalaya government Friday decided to adopt a ‘new approach’ on the proposed uranium mining in the state, aiming for a consensus on the issue after reassuring the people on health and environmental concerns and calculating the benefits to the state.
‘We will have a new approach to find out a solution to the apprehensions of the people as far as impact on health and environmental issues vis-a-vis the proposed uranium mining,’ Chief Minister Mukul M. Sangma told journalists here.
‘If there are answers to these (health and environmental) concerns, we will also have to see whether the people and the state will really benefit from the proposed uranium mining,’ he added.
Asked about the ‘new approach’, Sangma said it ‘includes complete engagement of all cross sections of people to evolve a consensus on the uranium mining’.
Stressing that complete engagement of the people is necessary, he said that the people must discuss the uranium issue on the maximum benefit that the state and the nation as a whole can reap from it.
Sangma returned Thursday after discussing with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the decade-old proposed open-cast mining in West Khasi Hills district and the proposed exploratory drilling for uranium deposits inside the Balpakram National Park in South Garo Hills district.
The Rs. 1,046-crore open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah area in West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups cited radiation effect on human health and environmental degradation.
The UCIL plans to produce 375,000 tonnes of uranium ore a year and process 1,500 tonnes of the mineral a day.
In South Garo Hills, the western region of Meghalaya bordering Bangladesh, the atomic energy department has got the clearance from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, headed by the prime minister, to conduct exploratory drilling in the ecologically fragile Rongcheng plateau of the national park.
Last year, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) decided to invest Rs.209 crore to start their pre-mining developmental projects in 422 hectares of the uranium-rich areas of West Khasi Hills in southern Meghalaya.
The then government was forced to keep the project in abeyance following violent protests from various groups.