Staff Correspondent: Five coal mines have been discovered in Bangladesh so far. Out of this extraction is done only in Barapukuria of Dinajpur. Coal mined here is used in power plants. Excavation is done underground. None of the remaining four mines have received any public-private investment to start extraction so far.
The deepest mine in the country is located at Jamalganj in Joypurhat – from 640 to 1,158 meters. Coal has been mined profitably from much deeper mines for a long time in various countries of the world. Coal has also been mined underground at the nearly equal-depth Chinakuri coal mine in Burdwan, West Bengal, neighboring India. Coal India Limited’s subsidiary Eastern Coal Fields Limited has used the technology here to extract coal from a depth of 1,700 meters at a rock temperature of 57 degrees Celsius.
Experts are largely responsible for the lack of investment in coal mines in Bangladesh due to informational confusion about the coal reserves here. There is a lack of reliable and clear information with the concerned agencies. Rather, there is a large gap in the information of one organization with another regarding coal reserves.
According to the data of the annual report of the Bangladesh Mineral Resources Development Bureau (BMD) for the fiscal year 2022-23, the Geological Survey Directorate of Bangladesh (GSB) has identified a total of 203 million tons (2,033 million tons) of coal reserves in Bangladesh. And Bangladesh Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL) calculated it as 796.20 crore tons (7,962 million tons). Those concerned say that although the results of the survey conducted by different foreign organizations are different, no initiative has been taken to re-survey to eliminate this gap. As with mining, there remains a lack of investment in exploration. For this reason, they blame political indecision, dependence on foreign investment, not doing business with foreign companies in terms of bargaining.
Although the extraction is very little, at least 7000-megawatt capacity of coal-based electricity is being developed in the country. In this case mainly the imported coal is being relied on. Although according to the data of various surveys, the experts said that the quality of domestic coal is quite good. They say, although the meaning is good, there has not been much investment at the local level to lift them. In addition to identifying the real reserves of coal in Bangladesh by public-private initiatives, if investment is increased to increase their extraction, the import dependence on them can be overcome to a large extent.
According to GSB data, the amount of coal reserves in the country is 203.33 crore tonnes (2,033 million tonnes). Among them, the largest coal reserves are in the Jamalganj coal mines of Joypurhat, which amount to 105.03 million tons. The mine, discovered in 1959, has a depth of 640 to 1,158 meters. In addition, the amount of coal reserves in Phulbari of Dinajpur is 38.7 million tons. Barapukuria coal mine has reserves of 300 million tonnes. Dighipara coal mine in the same district has 15 crore tonnes of coal. And 14.3 million tons of coal is stored in Khalashpir coal mine in Rangpur district.
And according to the calculations of Bangladesh Coal Mining Company Limited (BCMCL), the amount of coal stockpiled in the country is 796.02 crore tons. Among them, coal reserves in Jamalganj mine are 545 million tons. Phulbari has 57.02 crore tons. Besides 39 million tons in Barapukuria and 86.5 million tons in Dighipara and 68.5 million tons in Khalashpir.
Experts believe that it is necessary to verify the statistical gap between the two organizations based on the survey of different foreign organizations. Out of the five coal mines in the country, only Barapukuria mine is extracting coal. This mine is managed by BCMCL. The company is also working on other coal mines.
Barapukuria is the lowest depth of coal mining reserves in the country. Chinese contractor company XMC and CMC are extracting coal from this mine. From September 2005 to June this year, 1.37 crore tonnes of coal has been extracted from this mine.
Energy expert and geologist Professor Badrul Imam told, ‘Five mines of the country have a large amount of coal reserves. Considering the coal reserves and quality, Bangladesh will be in one of the places. Coal mining on a large scale is possible if investment is made in coal mining technology. Coal can be extracted from Khalashpir, Phulbari by underground mining method. There is no environmental and social impact in coal extraction in this method.
According to him, ‘coal can’t be mined on a large scale in our country mainly for two reasons – one is social, the other is political. But to put it roughly, due to political indecisiveness, we have repeatedly withdrawn from the initiative of coal extraction.
Talking to energy experts and geologists, it is known that although the country has large reserves of coal, it is not possible to extract coal on a large scale due to various formations at the underground level. Moreover, due to dense population and environmental complications, coal mining in Bangladesh is a big obstacle. However, if sufficient investment is made in commercial extraction, it is possible to extract coal profitably, avoiding these complications and without displacing the locals.
Energy expert Prof M. Tamim told, ‘Our country has large reserves of coal. There are various information about this coal. These data should be checked by our third-party consulting firm. Then a decision can be made about coal extraction. If the result is positive then the coal should be extracted. This will reduce the huge amount of fuel being imported for coal-based power plants in the country. A large amount of foreign currency will be saved.
According to Petrobangla sources, large-scale initiatives have been taken to extract more coal from the country’s coal mines. Among these, steps have been taken to verify the feasibility of open pit coal mining in the northern and southern parts of the mine to extract more coal from the Barapukuria coal mine. If the survey is positive, 170 million tons of coal can be extracted in the next 28-30 years at the rate of 6-10 million per year, Petrobangla said.
Besides, a survey is being done for the development of Dighipara coal mine. Meanwhile, reserves of 706 million tons have been confirmed in the mine. The revalidation survey was conducted in August last year by DMT Consulting, a UK consultancy. The issue of Dighipara coal mine development is currently awaiting the decision of the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources.
Besides, BCMCL has taken the initiative to carry out a feasibility study on the extraction of the western part of Jamalganj coal mine. BCMCL is conducting experiments to see if 3.4 lakh tonnes of coal can be extracted from the mine annually. If this is done, at least one and a half thousand coal-based power plants can be run, said BCMCL. Apart from this, neither Petrobangla nor the Energy Department has yet come to any major decision regarding Phulbari and Khalashpi coal mines.
On the condition of anonymity, a senior official of Petrobangla told, ‘Work is underway on various issues related to Barpukuria, Dighipara and Jamalganj coal extraction. Various surveys of these mines are awaiting decision at the highest level of the government. If there is a response from there, Petrobangla will work.
The capacity of coal-based power plants under construction and running in the country is close to seven and a half thousand megawatts. A 1000 MW coal-based power plant requires 10 tons of coal daily. According to that, more than 25 million tons of coal will be required to run the power plants at full capacity throughout the year.
Due to the dollar crisis, the Department of Power and Energy has faced difficulties in continuing the supply of coal required for the currently operating power plants. In the last one year, due to the import crisis, there are precedents of stoppage of production in big power plants like Payra, Rampal.
In a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Public Administration, the Department of Energy said that the total cost of energy purchase in the country, oil import from India, loan installments in the fiscal year 2023-24 has been estimated at $4.5 billion. 33 percent of which is payment for import of coal.
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