A reported incident of cracking of a storage tank of the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) at Nongbah Jynrin village in South West Khasi Hills district has impelled the district administration to depute a team to the site to ascertain it.
Sources in the government said no official report about the incident has been received.
But sources in the district administration of South West Khasi Hills district admitted that there was an unconfirmed report about such an incident.
“Therefore, a team is being sent to visit the site and verify it on Tuesday,” an official said.
Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) general secretary Donald Thabah said: “The tank storing the toxic effluents of the 1993 uranium exploratory mining at Nongbah Jynrin exploded on Monday. This information was received from the people residing in those areas.”
KSU South West Khasi Hills district president Forwardman Nongrem also said the storage tank of the UCIL had cracked in the past too and emitted a foul smell from the storage tank.
Exploratory drilling of uranium deposits in and around Mawthabah and adjacent areas in the past was undertaken by the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD).
However, on August 29, 2017, the UCIL temporarily closed down its establishments in Meghalaya as it did not receive mining lease and statutory permission from the state government.
Prior to the UCIL’s decision, the AMD had stopped its exploratory drilling in uranium-rich deposits of South West Khasi Hills district after its officials were attacked and machines used for taking sub-surface samples were also torched.
In the past, the UCIL had proposed to set up an open-cast uranium mining and processing plant at Mawthabah in the district.
There was a proposal by the Centre and the UCIL to mine uranium from the Kylleng-Pyndengsohïong-Mawthabah area in South West Khasi Hills district, leading to stiff opposition from anti-uranium groups including the KSU and other organisations.
Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tons of uranium ore deposits.
Anti-uranium groups alleged the Centre’s move to build a two-lane road, including a 68km two-lane road that will connect the uranium site at Mawthabah, was to facilitate uranium mining.
The groups also alleged that leasing out a plot of land to the UCIL for pre-mining development projects a few years ago was a ploy to allow the corporation to mine uranium from Kylleng-Pyndengsohïong-Mawthabah.
The opposition has compelled the then Congress-led Meghalaya government on August 1, 2016 to revoke its earlier decision (August 2009 ) in which the UCIL was allowed to take up pre-mining developmental activities in an area measuring around 422 hectares in and around the uranium site in South West Khasi Hills district.