The proposed project came to a halt just before launch in 2006 following protests from the locals and subsequently people of the country, who protested the drive realising adverse loss.

If implemented, it would have caused huge loss to livelihoods, lands and overall environment of the area.

On Aug 26, 2006 at least three people were killed and more than a hundred were injured when the BDR members opened fire at the agitating protesters, on the third day of a strike.

Following the killings and strikes, the then BNP-Jamaat led four party alliance government on Aug 30 signed a six-point agreement.

Banning of open cut mining and withdrawal of Asia Energy from Bangladesh and cancelling all contracts with the company were the key demands alongside compensation of the people killed and those injured, and vandalism of property.

The then opposition leader and present prime minster Sheikh Hasina visited the area on Aug 30 and echoed with the protestors of open cut mining.

She vowed to materialise the demands once in power and said that open cut mining would never be implemented at Phulbari.

The company, however, still holds their operation as the contracts were not cancelled.

They are currently considered as the most potential contactor for the Phulbari project.

The government in the recent days have been showing urgency for immediate extraction of coal for more power production in the wake to ease the nagging power crisis.

In this regard, the proposed coal policy, to be formulated, will have a provision to launch an experimental open pit project at Barapukuria.

The prime minister, concerned ministry officials and parliamentary watchdog committee have already endorsed the plan, which was first proposed during the military-backed caretaker government in 2008.

In this point, the Phulbari chairman suggested to try other methods for the experimental project at Barapukuria and obviously for the upcoming mines.

Experts opposing the anti-open cut mining have recommended coal gasification method, or any other modern method to avoid exclusion of local people, and loss of nature and environment.

IS IT THAT URGENT?

Government officials during different terms echoed with the Asia Energy’s explanation on open cut mining, “it is economical”, as around 80-90 percent of a deposit could be extracted in this method.

And they have been saying that the additional coal production will significantly develop

According to the government’s five-year plan to add around 9000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, only three coal-run plants are expected to be installed, whereas the total number is 62.

The three coal-run power plants, having a total capacity of 2725MW, would not require much coal that another mine needs to be launched.

The plants are expected to be operational by 2015.

Currently, the 250MW coal-fired plant at Barapukuria with the fuel from adjacent mine would possibly run more 30 years. The plant consumes 60-70 percent of total production.