The fallout of India’s attempts to get into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) seems to have caused ripples in the arid hinterlands of Yadgir district.
Four years after the ambitious large-scale uranium mining project was suspended in the Bhima Basin in and around Gogi village, the mining project seems to be finally picking up steam.
With their eyes set on an estimated 500 tonnes of high-grade Uranium-238 — the critical fuel of nuclear power plants in the country — Uranium Corporation India Ltd. (UCIL) has restarted the process to obtain environment clearance.
Explaining the sudden thrust for the long-suspended project, Ajay Ghade, General Manager (Technical Services & Planning), Mines, UCIL, said: “There are doubts over NSG, so the Union government is focusing on uranium deposits in the country itself. A string of nuclear power stations will be going online in the next few years, and we need to ensure a constant supply of nuclear rods.”
Earlier this month, UCIL had sought an expression of interest from consultants for the clearances and for construction of the mine and allied infrastructure. “Environment clearances are being expedited. We have already acquired land in Gogi and we expect operations to commence within four years,” said Mr. Ghade.
The journey for extracting uranium ore in the region has been long and fraught. While exploratory studies officially started in 2007, four years on, the State government gave its clearance for the project. At that time, the mine was to see an investment of Rs. 550 crore, employ 361 people, and would see extraction of ore from over 200 acres of land.
However, protests erupted, with residents claiming that even the exploratory extraction has resulted in contamination of drinking water sources. The public hearing was declared invalid by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. By early 2012, with trouble getting environment clearance, even the exploratory mining was suspended.
“We have finalised an ion-exchange effluent treatment plant after consultations with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). We will not proceed with construction until this is set up to address concerns of villagers on contamination,” said Mr. Ghade.
“There are doubts over NSG, and so the Union Government has focused on Uranium deposits in the country itself.” Ajay Ghade, General Manager (Technical Services & Planning), Mines, UCIL