The Barapukuria Coal Mine Company (BCMC) is set to go for in-depth study of its resources and to choose the right technology for extracting coal from there.
Recently the coal mine authority has floated tender for the feasibility study and has received a tremendous response.
"About 97 world class companies including from Australia, UK, USA, China, India, South Africa have shown "Expression of Interest" to do this job, however, we will make a short list and call them later," a Petrobangla official told the Daily Observer on Thursday.
According to the Energy Ministry sources, the study will cover the southern and northern part of Barapukuria. It may here be mentioned that there is no such study on Barapukuria although coal is being extracted from this field since 2005.
Bangladesh has five coalfields with around 2.55 billion tonnes of reserves, but has been unable to extract the mineral since a national coal policy has not been finalised yet. The Barapukuria coalfield has reserves of around 389 million tonnes, but only 10 to 12 per cent of this can be extracted by shaft mining method.
"The study will discuss both the open-pit and shaft mining methods, however it will take two years to complete," Petrobangla official said.
According to the experts over 90 per cent of the total reserves can be extracted through open-pit mining. Shaft mining can produce less than 25 per cent. The northern part has estimated reserves of 135 million tonnes of coal.
The shaft mine also includes an area of 263 hectares of agricultural land on the surface. Since coal mining began in 2005, there have been different fatal and near-fatal accidents that occurred at Barapukuria. This included the death of a British mining expert, a gas leakage accident in 2005 and a roof cave-in in 2010 where one worker was killed and 19 other were wounded. But we never felt to carry such a study in the last two decades.
According to the Geological Survey of Bangladesh, we have five coal mines where high quality bituminous coal have been discovered at Khalashpur of Rangpur, at Barapukuria, Phulbari, Dighipara of Dinajpur and at Jamalganj of Bogra in the north-western zone of the country.
The total reserve is around 2,797 MT, of this 5 coal mines and the heat generation capacity is equivalent to 37 TCF of gas approximately.
A 250 MW power plant has been running by using the extracted coal of Barapukuria, which is only 2.5 per cent of our total electricity generation.
"We need more coal from our own resources as we are focusing on generating more electricity from coal, so we need to go for more studies on our coal mines and choice the right technology and method," Former Chairman of Petrobangla Mosharrof Hossain told the Daily Observer.
By establishing power plant based on coal and using it in the industries as a source of energy we can ensure the proper use of extracted coal. It is notable that the coal of Bangladesh is considered to be high quality due to its high level of heat generation capacity, he added.
"If initiatives are taken for exploration all over the country, there are enough possibilities to extract more coal," he added.
According to the sources in the Energy Ministry with the aim of opening up the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield on a "small scale," the Energy Ministry had launched the initiative, but everything will be done as per mine specific.
"We can go in for open-pit mining in the northern part of the Barapukuria coalfield, subject to the technical feasibility study on mining issues and the economic viability of water pumping with respect to biodiversity and ecological stress on food production and their impact on the gross domestic product (GDP). Otherwise, how can we assess profit and loss of a project? So this study is very much important for us to discuss the issue scientifically," Petrobangla official said.
The report of the experts' committee said the coal seam deposited 200 metres under the surface would be extracted through the open-pit method. The shaft mining method would be chosen for those deposits when their depth is more than 200 metres.