The government is going to finalise the draft of the long-expected ‘National Coal Policy’, leaving out the provision of exporting coal, sources said.
The policy however keeps the provision of joint venture exploration and development between the local and foreign companies through bilateral agreement.
Sources said that in March 21 this year, a letter signed by Md Mokammel Haque, a Deputy Secretary of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division (EMRD) asked the Hydrocarbon Unit , an organization under the EMRD, to finalise the draft.
In that letter, the EMRD asked to consult with Petrobangla, Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB) and other organisations concerned to figure out whether the draft policy needed any addition or amendment.
GSB has already submitted its observations about the policy. The Hydrocarbon unit and Petrobangla will soon submit their observations, an official with the EMRD said.
The draft policy which consists of 27 sections said that the main purpose of the draft policy is to ensure steady supply of coal to tackle the base load along with other energy resources for long term periods.
The draft policy talked about developing the main coal mines of the northern parts of Bangladesh as well as finding new exploration options there to make that region a hub for power and energy.
One of the main aims of the draft policy is to establish energy security through maintaining a balance between coal demand and coal extraction. Through this the usage of valuable coal could be optimized in accordance with socio-economic issues and economic progress of the country.
The policy considered the increased usage of coal in ensuring energy security and producing electricity and put restriction on exporting coal unless it becomes necessary to protect public interest.
As per ‘The Mines Act 1923’, the Chief Mine Inspector will be appointed and the office will be established. The Chief Mine Inspector will supervise the mine activities under ‘The Mines Act 1923’.
To develop the discovered coal mine, organisations will be selected through competitive tender process, the draft policy said.
The foreign companies will be selected through bilateral agreement to work in joint venture, the policy added.
Md. Nehal Uddin, Director General of GSB said that they have submitted their opinion on the issue. “The draft policy could be finalised if the government wants it.”
An official with the Hydrocarbon Unit said that they will finalise the policy after consulting with everybody.
In 2005, the first step was taken to make a coal policy. Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Centre (IIFC) published the first coal policy in Dec 2005. That policy was based on foreign investment for extracting coal in open-pit method.
During the 2001-06 tenure of BNP-led government, the committee made four editions of that policy but could not implement any.
Later the caretaker government published sixth and seventh editions in March and June 2007 respectively.
In January 2008, another committee headed by former BUET VC Abdul Matin Patwary published the eighth edition of the draft coal policy. But in the face of massive protests, the draft was shelved.
Immediately after the Awami League-led government came into power in 2009, fresh initiatives had been taken to prepare a new policy.
The first committee headed by former Energy and Mineral Resources Division secretary Mohammad Mezbahuddin was formed in April 2010 during the Awami League government tenure.
On September 8, 2011, the government second committee formed the 15 -member’s expert committee in this regard.
The government has estimated that five coal mines – at Barapukuria, Dighipara, Phulbari, Jamalganj and Khalashpir – likely hold a reserve of approximately 30 billion tonnes.
Among those the country is now lifting around 3,000 tonnes per day from Barapukuria and using those for 250 megawatt thermal power generation.
The coal reserve area of Barapukuria at Dinajpur was discovered in 1985 with a proven reserve of 303 million tonnes lying between 118 and 509 metres below the surface, while the Phulbari coal reserve area in Dinajpur, discovered in 1997, contains 572 million tonnes sitting 150 to 240 metres from the surface.
The coal reserve at Khalashpir in Rangpur was discovered in 1989 and has a proven reserve of 143 million tonnes lying between 257 and 483 metres in depth, while Jamalganj in Joypurhat was uncovered in 1962 with a proven reserve of 1.05 billion tonnes between 640 and 1158 metres from the surface.
The reserve at Dinajpur in Dighipara was discovered in 1995 and has a proven reserve of 150 million tonnes laying between 328 and 407 metres in depth.