Asia Energy Corporation (AEC), a subsidiary of the London-based GCM Resources Plc. said it has no plan to quit Bangladesh at this stage, rather it has been in a process to invest further in the South Asian country in order win a deal from the government for exploration of the Phulbari coalmine.
"We have invested some $80 million over the last two decades in conducting feasibility and scientific studies on the proposed coalmine under a contract with the government, which was supposed to award us the deal," said AEC CEO Gary N Lye.
However the government could not honour its own wards due to resistance laid by a dominant vested leftist group in the country, he said.
But the government is eager to explore the coalmine as it needs coal to implement its plan for generating some 20,000 mw electricity by 2021, of which 53 per cent will be generated from coal-fired power plants.
"We will wait further to know the decision of the government, because we know the government cannot say no to such a vital project in which we worked for so many years," Gary said in an interview to The Daily Observer.
The government can say 'no' on an any reason, but in that case it will have to pay back the amount which the exploration company invested over the years to conduct relevant studies, he said.
"If we are deprived of the deal, global investors may receive a wrong message that the country and its government do not honour agreements, deals and contracts," Gary added.
"I can make it sure that no more foreign investors will be interested to come in to this country, if an explorer like Asia Energy is deprived of the legitimate deal for which it was made to hang around in the country for decades.
Why the government is shy to give its decision. Why It fears the leftists, who have been obstructing the government for decades from going for coal exploration, he asked.
The country is now going ahead to import coal from abroad for feeding its proposed coal-fired power plants, despite the country has an unexplored reserve of an estimated 3.0 billion tonnes of coal in its five coalfields in Dinajpur districts.
Of the five, only one in Barapukuria is now under exploration and feeding coal to a 250- mw coal-fired power plant near the mine site.
"AEC will continue pursuing approval of the project through its ongoing relationship with the Bangladesh government while progressing community engagement activities, in the next 12 months," Gary said.
GCM will seek to raise sufficient funds by June 2015 to enable the AEC to maintain its operations for the foreseeable future, he said.
AEC acquired the license which was transferred from BHP in 1998 when Sheikh Hasina, chief of Awami League was in office in her first term between 1996-2001.
If explored, the Phulbari coalmine is likely to create 17,000 new jobs and ensure livelihood for 40,000 people feared to be affected during exploration in open-pit method over the next 35 years, according to the AEC.
"The AEC has been struggling since late 1990s to get government approval for exploration of the coalmine with an estimated reserve of 572 million tonnes of high-quality bituminous coal, which is equivalent to 15 trillion cubic-feet of natural gas," Gary said.
Earlier Australian exploration company on a contract BHP submitted exploration report to the government, but soon it decided to withdraw from Bangladesh.
Subsequently, AEC obtained 'mining lease' in April 2004 and environmental clearance in September 2005, when Begum Khaleda Zia was the Prime Minister.
The company submitted its feasibility study to the government in October 2005 to start operations for an "open cut mine having a production capacity of 15million tonnes of coal per annum." Nearly a decade has elapsed, governments have come and gone, and yet no government has either accepted or rejected that study. Now what sort of message does that give out to the international exploration companies,? Gary asked.