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Barapukuria underground coal mine and open-pit coal mining project, Bangladesh


Description:

The Barapukuria coal mine is operated by the Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL). Although there are many other coal mines and projects under review at the moment, none of them have been built until today which makes of Barapukuria the first and only operating coal mine in Bangladesh. It is an underground coal mine located in Barapukuria in the Dinajpur District. The underground mine also includes an area of 263 hectares of agricultural land on the surface. Since coal mining began in 2005, there have been different fatal and near-fatal accidents that occurred at Barapukuria. This included the death of a British mining expert, a gas leakage accident in 2005 and a roof cave-in in 2010 where one worker was killed and 19 other were wounded.

Also, during the past few years large parts of the surrounding farmland areas, including crops, land and homes, have been destroyed due to the mining operations impacting around 2,500 residents of seven villages. Moreover, in 2011 residents of 15 villages claimed to have lost their access to water because of water being pumped out for the mine in large quantities which resulted in a drop in water levels. The people affected by mining operations are still seeking compensation for their destroyed land and homes. According to a local newspaper, BCMCL has proposed setting up new houses or “tin sheds” and resettling local residents. In March 2011, following protests, the energy adviser to the prime minister talked about the government's idea to set up a “coal city” near the mine, in order to provide additional housing and new sources of livelihood, in particular for the victims affected by land subsidence.

On 5 May 2011, local residents blocked railways and a highway to protest the government's plan to start a “pilot project” of open pit mining in Barapukuria. There were a few thousand demonstrators, demanding compensation for lost crops and the postponement of the ongoing land survey for the project. Residents of Chowhaati, Shahgram, Durgapur, Yousufpur, Rambhadrapur and Bagra villages attacked members of the National Committee and at least five people were injured during the clash.

Demanding regularization of their jobs, insurance and pension packages, Barapukuria coal miners also went on strike and stopped production a few months later on 23 August 2011. They had decided to go on strike following unsuccessful negotiations between the union and the company's management on 22 August. The outcome of the strike is unclear.

On 9 July 2012, at least 20 people were also injured when thousands of local villagers protested against BCMCL in the District of Dinajpur and clashes with the police occurred. The protesters were demanding compensation for land subsided in at least ten villages since 2009. Teargas was fired at the crowd by the police during the clashes.

A solution taking into account the villagers' demands seems still out of reach, as by November 2014, local protest continued against the open-pit mining project at the Barapukuria coal mine. Protesters burned tires on the road, shops and businesses remained closed and a highway was blocked as part of the protest. A feasibility study conducted by the Institute of Water Modeling (IWM) on open-pit mining at Barapukuria was rejected by BCMCL's authorities, saying it did not “match the study's terms of reference (TOR)”. The IWM report stated that an area of 56,000 hectares of Barapukuria would be impacted by open-pit mining and that the water levels would go down from seven to more than 30 meters at different locations.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Barapukuria underground coal mine and open-pit coal mining project, Bangladesh
Country:Bangladesh
State or province:Dinajpur District
Location of conflict:Barapukuria Coal mine
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Coal extraction and processing
Thermal power plants
Specific commodities:Land
Coal

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Barapukuria underground coal mine has an annual production capacity of 1,000,000 metric tons.

Coal produced from the mine is being used for power-generation by two 150 MW capacity coal-fired thermal powerplants located in the District of Dinajpur.

Project area:1,012 hectares underground mine, including 263 hectares of surface farm lands Possible impact on another 56,000 hectares due to open-pit coal mining
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:2500 people in seven villages.
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL) from Bangladesh
Petrobangla from Bangladesh
Relevant government actors:Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:International Accountability Project: http://accountabilityproject.org/

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLATENT (no visible organising at the moment)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Street protest/marches
Strikes
Occupation of buildings/public spaces

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood

Outcome

Project StatusUnknown
Conflict outcome / response:Repression
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is not clear whether the government has actually started its open pit mining pilot project until now. Although compensation was promised and people were resettled, local residents were mostly unsatisfied with the outcome and demanded the company to fulfill their promises.
A solution taking into account the villagers' demands seems still out of reach, as by November 2014, local protest continued against the open-pit mining project at the Barapukuria coal mine.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

FONG-SAM, Yolanda (2014), 2012 Minerals Yearbook, Bangladesh (Advanced Release), U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey (USGS), November 2014,
http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2012/myb3-2012-bg.pdf

Siege protesting open pit mining to continue today, The Daily Star, 5 May 2011
http://archive.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=184313

Barapukuria coal mine, SourceWatch, The Center for Media and Democracy
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Barapukuria_coal_mine#cite_note-6

Barapukuria protest continues against open-pit mining, Observer Online Desk, The Daily Observer, 27 November 2014
http://www.observerbd.com/2014/11/27/57316.php

Villagers of Phulbari, Barapukuria block highway, The Daily Star, 1 March 2011
http://archive.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=175928

Massive protest against Phulbari & Barapukuria coal mines in Bangladesh, by Kate Hoshour, International Accountability Project, 4 March 2011
http://accproject.live.radicaldesigns.org/article.php?id=618

Barapukuria coal mine in trouble, by Kongkon Karmakar and Sharier Khan, The Daily Star, 6 March 2009
http://archive.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=78611

Feasibility study on Barapukuria open-pit mining sent back, by Shahnaj Begum, The Independent, 19 November 2014
http://www.theindependentbd.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=237711:feasibility-study-on-barapukuria-open-pit-mining-sent-back&catid=129:frontpage&Itemid=121

Cultural Survival on highway blockade
http://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/bangladesh-campaign-update-massive-protest-against-phulbari-barapukuria-coal-mines

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019

Images

 

Miners and workers of Barapukuria

Source: Miners and workers of Barapukuria Coal Mine Company Ltd and Barapukuria Power Plant bring out a procession in Dinajpur yesterday to protest against the alleged corruption of the officials of the two projects. Photo: STAR http://archive.thedailystar.net/newDesign/print_news.php?nid=88828