Anti-mining groups in Meghalaya on Thursday told Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) officials that they would not allow the company to mine uranium in the state.
A team of UCIL officials led by their Chairman and Managing Director, C.K. Asnani held a closed-door meeting with five anti-mining groups seeking their views and opinions on Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah (KPM) uranium mining project that has been stalled for over two decades.
"We informed the UCIL officials to scrap the proposal to mine uranium in Meghalaya and we will not allow anyone to mine this radioactive mineral in Meghalaya," the North East Students' Organisation (NESO) Chairman Samuel Jyrwa said.
"During the meeting, the UCIL officials made all attempt to convince us by promising that they would adhere to all the safety standards while mining uranium in the state," Jyrwa told journalists.
UCIL has proposed to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah. Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of uranium ore deposits.
Meghalaya is the third uranium-rich state in the country after Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
UCIL had pegged Kylleng Pyndengsohiong Mawthabah project in Meghalaya for Rs 1,100 crore. The ores are spread over a mountainous terrain in deposits varying from eight to 47 metres from the surface in and around Domiasiat, 135 km west from here.
The powerful Khasi Students' Union (KSU), which had launched several agitation forcing the government to stall the project, said the officials of the government-owned company was misleading the people in the proposed mining site to allow the project to start.
"The KSU wants to send a clear message to the Indian government and UCIL that we have been opposing uranium mining for 25 years now and will continue to do so till our last breath," KSU President Lambokstarwell Marngar said.
Meghalaya People's Human Rights Council Secretary General D.D.G. Dympep, said that the Council will continue to oppose uranium mining.
"Once uranium mining is allowed in the state, the radiation omitted from the excavated site will bring about a slow death to the people of the state. This will ultimately become genocide for our own people," he said.
B.S. Lyngdoh of the Langrin Youth Welfare Association termed the meeting as "another desperate attempt" of UCIL to forcefully convince the people of Meghalaya to allow uranium mining.
"The people in the proposed uranium mining areas have experienced the impact of exploratory drilling by the Department of Atomic Energy.
"Therefore, we will not allow UCIL to start their project as everybody knows that uranium mining will only bring death and destruction not only to the animals and aquatic lives but to the people of the state and the region as a whole," Lyngdoh said.
In fact, the Congress-led Meghalaya government had annulled the decision taken during the previous D.D. Lapang regime to lease 422 hectares of land to UCIL for pre-mining activities in South West Khasi Hill district.
The decision to annul the leasing of land to UCIL was adopted after the government-owned mining company floated the expression of interest (EOI) for a mine and processing plant of uranium ore in South West Khasi Hills without the consent of the state government.
The state accounts for 16 per cent of India's uranium reserves, with deposits estimated to be around 9,500 tonnes and 4,000 tonnes respectively at Domiasiat and Wakhaji, both in South West Khasi Hills district.
The proposed open-cast uranium mining in Meghalaya's South West Khasi Hills district has been hanging fire since 1992 after several groups expressed fears of radiation impact on human health and environmental degradation.