The state-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) has received clearance from the Karnataka government for setting up a uranium processing unit at Gogi village in Yadgir district. The UCIL, which started exploration for uranium in this village in 2007, has found rich deposits of high-grade uranium (U235) that is used to generate nuclear power.
The state high-level clearance committee (SHLCC) headed by Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa recently cleared the company’s application for mining uranium and processing, at an investment of Rs 550 crore.
The deputy commissioner of Yadgir district recently issued the no objection certificate to UCIL. However, the company is yet to be issued mining lease by the government.
“This is just a preliminary approval for their operations. Before starting work to mine the material, they have to complete the environment impact assessment report and seek approval from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), Government of India. Only after that will their application for mining lease be processed by the state government,” H R Srinivasa, director, mines and geology, told Business Standard.
The deposits in Gogi are expected to last at least 15 years and the company wants to take up mining at a depth of 65 metres and excavate horizontally over an area of 109 acres, he said.
According to the initial estimates, the company plans to extract 500 tonnes of iron ore per day and recover 1 kg of uranium per tonne, which is double the yield from Kadapa mines in Andhra Pradesh. The UCIL has found a concentration of 400-450 gms in Jharkhand mines.
The company, apart from Gogi village, has also found rich deposits of uranium in Dharwad and Belgaum districts.
In Dharwad, the company has found uranium deposits in the shape of a bar, and are richer than the Gogi village, and the UCIL is likely to take up open cast mining, Srinivasa said.
He also allayed fears of the farmers in Gogi village that radiation levels in and around the uranium deposits are within the prescribed limits of the International Radiation Commission (IRC).
The uranium ore mining by UCIL is likely to yield royalty in excess of Rs 400 crore per annum for the department of mines and geology, he said.
However, the residents of Gogi village have raised serious doubts over the safety of conducting uranium mining in their village. During the public hearing conducted by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board on November 16, 2010, residents of Gogi and four nearby villages had raised objections for carrying out mining.
The UCIL has in its Environment Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan submitted to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board recently, said an Environment Engineering Cell, comprising officials of both the UCIL and BARC, will be constituted at the project site to implement various mitigation measures.