Ilmenite exploitation targets Vaakarai, civic members on alert

[TamilNet, Thursday, 27 December 2018, 22:17 GMT]
Alchemy Heavy Metals Ltd, a Dambulla-based private mining and processing company has recently stepped up an exploitative move to obtain lands for mineral excavation in Vaakarai, which is located in the northern part of the Batticaloa district. The activity of the company, also known as Mirama Minerals, was unusually high during the recent soft coup in Colombo. There were indications of a similar trend in the past in 2010 and 2013, says Koa'ra'lap-pattu North (Vaakarai) Divisional Council Chairman Sivagnanam Konalingam. The democratically elected Divisional Council functioning since June 2018 is now tracing the background of the move to exploit ilmenite mineral, he told TamilNet on Thursday. The council is deploying the Right to Information Act in investigating the matter as the exploitation has been targeting two hotspots, Kathirave'li (40 acres) and Puchchaak-kea'ni (13 acres).

In the meantime, grassroots activists in Kathirave'li blamed the company and a section of administrative officials coming under the occupying unitary state.

The officials were aiding the company to purchase the lands from private land-owners through deceptive means.

The people in the area and the community organisations at the grassroots level have now become aware of the deceptive project. They talk about the potential dangers of the ilmenite and other mineral excavations targeting the coastal sands, the civic members said.

The people also talk about the excavation work would not be environment-friendly towards the fishing and agrarian ecosystems.

The commercial company, backed with political influence, was explaining to the landowners that there would be no detrimental effects to the environment and 65% of the sands that would be dug up would be filtered and dumped back at the same location. The residents seem to have no faith in the claim of the company maintaining an eco-friendly atmosphere.

The civic members said they would investigate the issue and that they have instructed the concerned authorities to forward all the relevant documents to the council before 03 January 2019.

Alchemy Heavy Metals Ltd (Mirama Minerals) produces garnet, ilmenite, mica, quartz, rutile, and zircon for export. The mining and processing company owns and operates various mineral mines in the island with a processing plant at Dambulla.

A group of foreign experts have surveyed the eastern coast for minerals identifying the hotspots for mineral excavation by analysing the samples of sands and water after 2009, a Divisional Secretariat source in the East said. After the field study carried out from Ka'luvaang-kea'ni to Ilangkaith-thu'rai, the two hotspots have been pointed out to the company from the South, the source said.


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