Law ministry says draft coal policy contradicts some mining rules

June 27, 2008

Amendment of rules before approving policy will take too much time, say officials.

NewAge, June 27, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The law ministry has pointed out that some sections of the draft coal policy would contradict the existing Mines and Mineral Rules 1968 and suggested amendment of the rules before approving the policy.
   

A representative of the law ministry made the observation at an inter-ministry meeting on the draft coal policy, chaired by energy secretary Mohammad Mohsin at the Energy Division on Thursday, said sources present at the meeting.
 They said that along with other provisions of the draft coal policy, the awarding of licences and royalty fixation method contradicted the Mines and Minerals Rules.
   

As per the proposed coal policy, licences for exploration or extraction from any coal-field will be awarded through open tenders, whereas the existing rules say that the licences would be awarded on first-come-first-served basis, said sources.
   

On royalty rate issue, the mining rules said that the royalty on coal extraction would be 6 per cent for open-pit mines and 5 per cent for underground mines, whereas the policy says that a proposed coal sector development committee will fix the royalty.
   

When contacted, Mohsin told New Age that they have received the comments of the concerned ministries on the draft coal policy. ‘The law ministry has commented that the draft coal policy could be formulated as a policy or could be made an Act. The division will go with the policy and send it to the council of advisers, incorporating the opinions of different ministries, for approval,’ he said.
   

Regarding the draft coal policy’s sections that contradict the rules, sources in the Energy Division said that in the draft it is written that those sections would come into effect subject to the revision of the rules. ‘It is not necessary to amend the rules first. If the government approves the coal policy, the mining rules will have to be amended to incorporate the issues,’ said a source.
   

If the government decides to amend the mining rules before enactment of the coal policy, it will take months before any decision can be taken on the coal policy, which was initiated in late 2005.
   Representatives of the forest and environment, agriculture and land ministries, Power Division and the National Board of Revenue were present at the meeting, along with others.
   

Although the Energy Division forwarded the draft to the concerned ministries for getting their written opinions on the policy by June 24, none of the ministries submitted any opinion till Thursday.

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“The World According to Monsanto”

June 25, 2008

The Real News Network, June 22, 2008

Filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin on the troubling past of one of the world’s biggest agricultural companies. 

Monsanto is a world leader in industrial agriculture, providing the seeds for 90 percent of the world’s genetically modified crops. Once a chemical company based in the US, Monsanto has transformed into an international life sciences company, aiming to solve world hunger and protect the environment. Filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, however, exposes the company’s troubling past, in her recent film, The World According to Monsanto. In an interview with The Real News Network, she discusses Monsanto’s controversial practices from a producer of PCBs and Agent Orange to genetically modified seeds and related herbicides.

Marie-Monique Robin is an award winning French journalist and filmmaker who specializes in social and political issues. She is also the author of several books including Le monde selon Monsanto, De la dioxine aux OGM,which coincides with the launch of her documentary by the same name.


Who’s to blame for price of oil?

June 25, 2008

The Real News Network, June 23, 2008 

Unregulated and criminal speculation main cause of high oil prices. 

Oil consuming nations stepped up pressure on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on Sunday to increase production at an international summit on spiraling crude prices in the Saudi city of Jeddah. OPEC leaders are saying doubling of oil prices over the past year was due to geopolitical tension, unregulated speculation and a shortage of refining capacity rather than a failure by producers to supply enough crude. Antonia Juhasz, author of the book “Tyranny of Oil” comments on the current situation.


Not facing up to climate change crisis a crime?

June 25, 2008

The Real News Network, June 23, 2008

Dr. James Hansen calls for moratorium on coal and phasing out by 2020

Dr. Hansen stated that we have already exceeded a safe amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, which he places at 350 parts per million (ppm). He testified that the US must begin using a carbon tax to lower the nation’s emissions and that the US must stop producing energy from coal by 2020.

James Hansen heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and serves as Al Gore’s science adviser. Hansen is best known for his research in the field of climatology and his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue.


Energy Ministry finalises coal policy, Inter-ministerial meeting on June 26

June 22, 2008

The Independent, June 22, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The energy ministry has finalised the coal policy recommending formation of “Khoni-Bangla”, a management body to oversee the country’s mineral resources including coal, hardrock, lime stone, silica sand and others, an authoritative source told The Independent yesterday.

The energy ministry last week finalised the policy without making major changes in the draft policy prepared by country’s renowned experts and sent copies to the ministries of forest and environment, law, land, finance, commerce, power, and NBR with a request letter to give their opinion and join the first interministerial meeting on June 26 following which it will be sent to chief adviser Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed for approval.

“The committee did not say anything about the coal extraction method. The issue should be coal field-specific. We simply brushed and trimmed it without touching the basic content of the draft except the land reclamation issue”, a top official of the energy ministry told The Independent. 

It may be mentioned that the committee suggested to the government to examine the pros and corns of open-pit mining and that the government should go for open pit on a limited scale. The policy has not mentioned anything on it.

It is learnt that the energy ministry in the policy suggested keeping the land reclamation issue under government’s jurisdiction. However, the committee suggested to give the land to its owner. “20-30 years is a long time and the ownership may change in the meantime. Our observation is it would be a difficult task for government to identify the real owner. So we said that land would be kept under government jurisdiction and it would take decision,” a top official of the energy ministry remarked. 

A 29-member standing committee ‘titled: development committee’, comprising government officials, experts, business leaders and members of civil society would act as the highest authority to give policy directives to ‘Khoni-Bangla’ from time to time. “Khoni Bangla”, would work under the energy ministry and the Bureau of Mineral Development (BMD). 

It would be the authority to oversee coal exploration, marketing and investment through selecting method (open pit or underground mining) giving approval to Go-Private, Go-foreign and private -foreign ventures. 

The country has a known reserve of 2.7 billion metric tons of coal but there is yet no specific policy on coal development, although there are some rules and regulations to lease out coal fields to foreign companies.

The main goal of the new policy is to ensure energy security by developing coal-fired power stations in the country. Though the country has five coal fields, four are commercially viable. 

The government in 2007 formed the eight-member committee comprising Abdul Matin Patwary, Vice Chancellor of Asia Pacific University (president), Prof. Nazrul Islam of University Grants Commission, Prof. Badrul Imam, Nazrul Islam of IIFC, Prof. Mostafizur Rahman, Muqbul-e-Elahi, Major General Ismail Farooq Chowdhury and Ataus Samad. The committee at its first meeting suggested inclusion of Prof Nurul Islam of BUET and M.A. Zaman (re-settlement expert) in the committee and invited other experts from time to time to know their views. The draft coal policy was prepared by the IIFC last year, which was amended six times. 

The policy suggested 6 per cent royalty for open-pit and 5 per cent for underground mining, but it suggested that fixing of royalty would be finalised by the government. Bangladesh Arbitration Act-2001 would be followed if any disputes arose.
To discourage export, the policy said whatever method was adopted to develop a coal field it would produce only that much which would meet the local demand. It said coal is needed to ensure the country’s energy security first. 

It may be mentioned that to ensure energy security for the next 50 years (at a rate of 8 per cent GDP growth), it needs to produce 41,599 MW of electricity by 2025. Aiming to slap conditions on coal export, the energy ministry upheld the committee’s observation that the entire amount of the country’s coal reserve is needed to produce electricity in future, as gas would be exhausted by 2015 if new discovery is not made. 

However, it allowed a limited export of coal after ensuring the country’s 50 years’ energy security and said only that portion of coal could be exported which has no market here, and in case of ‘cooking’ coal, it could be exported but after making it ‘coke’ (a raw material use in steel making).


UK government lobbied for Phulbari Coal Project

June 22, 2008

World Development Movement, May 2008

The UK government has been actively supporting plans by a British company to build an open-cast mine in Bangladesh. The mine in Phulbari, proposed by UK company Global Coal Management, would destroy the homes of more than 40,000 people and threaten the water supplies of a further 100,000.

In response to a question asked in the UK parliament, the Department for Business has disclosed that it has lobbied the Bangladesh government for the mine to go ahead.

Gareth Thomas MP, UK Trade Minister, has now admitted that the British government “have lobbied to ensure that the Government of Bangladesh take the company’s interests into consideration and do not prohibit opencast mining. The British high commission will continue to remain in touch with the company and will represent their interests as appropriate.”

Tim Jones from the World Development Movement said:

“It is scandalous that the UK government has been actively supporting plans for this potentially disastrous mine. If implemented, it would destroy the livelihoods of thousands of people.

“The British government are putting the profits of British business ahead of the welfare of thousands of people in one of the poorest countries in the world.

“Gareth Thomas is both a Minister for Business and for International Development. Phulbari is a test case for whose side he is really on – the only development the mine will promote is that of a British company.”

Community leaders from Phulbari said earlier this year that the mine “will increase the poverty of the local population as well as cause environmental disaster.”

Global Coal Management’s investors include British bank Barclays and Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse. In April 2008, the Asian Development Bank announced it was pulling out of funding the scheme.

Take Action: www.wdm.org.uk/bangladeshmine

Further information: 

Kate Blagojevic 
Press officer, World Development Movement 
0207 820 4900/4913, 07711 875 345, Email: kate.blagojevic@wdm.org.uk


Coal policy draft sent to relevant ministries for opinions

June 20, 2008

NewAge, June 20 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The energy division has sent the draft coal policy to eight relevant ministries for opinions on the finalisation of the draft.
 The division, which completed finalising the draft policy on its part, sent the draft to eight ministries, including finance, environment and forest, agriculture, land, law and the National Board of Revenue on Sunday, sources in the division said.
   

The ministries have been asked to submit their opinions on June 24 before the division convenes an inter-ministerial meeting on June 26 to discuss the comments given by the ministries, they said.
 Sources in the division claimed the division had not made any ‘major changes’ in the draft policy, submitted earlier by the advisory committee, headed by former BUET vice-chancellor Abdul Matin Patwari.
   

The division dropped a provision off the draft, finalised by the Patwari committee, which said the reclaimed land would need to be handed over to the owner in the original form after completing coal mining. Sources in the division claimed the existing laws did not support the provision of giving back the land to the owner after the government acquired the land. ‘Besides, it will create complexities and scope of corruption as after 10 to 20 years of mining, many “so-called” owners will claim the land,’ observed a source.
   

One of the members on the Patwari committee, however, told New Age the land could be handed over to the owner if the government had the sincerity. ‘Thousands of poor land owners will need to be relocated for mining. The people should have the right to get back the land. If the government owns the land, it will create scope for corruption,’ he said.
   

Citing the example of land acquisition for the Jamuna Bridge, he said the land was handed over by the government to an influential businessman. ‘The people have not got back their land in the Jamuna Bridge area. Now what we see there is a resort for rich people,’ he said.
   

The division changed the name of the proposed company, Coal Bangla, to Khani Bangla so that other mines such as rock mine could be brought under the authority of the company.
   

The details of the mining method could not be immediately known. Sources in the division could not confirm whether any change was made in the recommendations submitted by the Patwari committee regarding open-pit mining.
 The Patwari committee recommended operating an open-pit mine first to observe the viability of the method in Bangladesh before adopting the method for other mines.
   

The division, however, did not make any change regarding the bar on coal export, royalty rate and coal sector development committee.