The government has given permission to a British company to start a massive mining project from Akkaraipattu to Pottuvil on the rapidly eroding east coast.
04 precious minerals
The project is being implemented by Sri Lanka-based Damsila Exports in association with British company Capital Metals Pvt. The beach is rich in ilmenite, rutile, zircon and garnet, and is expected to invest US $ 35 million (Rs. 7,000 million) in the project, the UK-based company had stated.
Sri Lankan Agent
When contacted, Iranga Dunuwila, a director of Damsila Exports, which is the Sri Lankan agent for the UK company, said that he cannot provide any information over the phone.
To Australia and England!
In the first phase, 5,431,709 metric tons of mineral sand is planned to be mined from the coast, while four coastal mining projects and five offshore mining projects have been planned. The excavations will cover an area of 351 square kilometers. The sand will be separated at a refinery to be built at the Oluvil harbor, and the company plans to transport the mineral directly to Australia and England.
Why change in names?
This company, Damsila Exports which has been known by several names, including Equatorial Palm Oil, has changed its name on several occasions. The company’s website also confirms that no such projects have been undertaken since 2015, when the company began using its current name.
In 2013, when the Former Minister Basil Rajapaksa was the Minister of Economic Development, the first attempt was made to launch this project as part of the ‘Nagenahira Navodaya’ program. However, the project was halted due to protests by more than 80,000 people, led by 10,000 fishing families.
Erosion at its peak!
The project is being implemented in the Alayadiwembu, Thirukkovil and Pottuvil Divisional Secretariat areas in the Eastern Province and this beach has been identified as one of the most coastal erosion areas in Sri Lanka. Geologists point out that the strength of these beaches is due to the relevant minerals, which are completely lost after being removed by machinery.
When inquired about this from the former Director General of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department Prabhath Chandrakeerthi last September, he said that his department had not given any permission for this project. He said that there was only a discussion on such a project and that it should be decided after a scientific study whether it could be approved.
He is currently the head of the Department of Labor, a head for the Coast Conservation Department has not been appointed yet. In such a situation, an EIA report has been sent to the Divisional Secretariats involved in the project.
An official of the Thirukkovil Divisional Secretariat said that the report was kept for public comment and that period ended on 12th March. Howeber, residents of the area had not been informed about this.
‘Not after I assumed duties’
The Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera stated that no final decision has been taken regarding the mining of mineral sand in this coastal area and that no such mining has been permitted since he assumed duties as the Minister. He further stated that if such approval is given, the environmental reports should be studied extensively.