Officials probe ‘explosion’ in Meghalaya uranium village

Spot verification did not reveal any mishap but district authorities have sought a detailed report

The authorities of a Meghalaya district bordering Bangladesh have sought a detailed report on an “explosion” in a concrete tank allegedly containing radioactive remnants of an exploratory uranium mining in 1993.

The local police have, however, ruled out any mishap or mischief after a spot verification.

Donald Thabah, general secretary of the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), said the tank “storing toxic effluents” at Nongbah Jynrin village in South West Khasi Hills district had exploded on September 21. The union’s district unit president Forwardman Nongrem said locals reported the explosion and were reminded of a past instance when the tank cracked to emit foul smell.

The KSU had played a major role in the winding up of the uranium exploratory mining operation, which locals said would have led to serious health issues in the area.

“The local police went to the spot on Monday but did not find anything to conclude there had been an explosion in the tank or around it. But I have sent a team with a magistrate and a deputy superintendent of police for a detailed report,” Deputy Commissioner Cara Kharkongor told The Hindu from district headquarters Mawkyrwat.

Nongbah Jynrin is about 55 km from Mawkyrwat and 135 km from State capital Shillong.

‘No activity for 3 decades’

The district officials said the Atomic Minerals Directorate (AMD) had ruled out any possibility of explosion since the place had been sealed and there had been no activity for almost three decades now.

The AMD had undertaken exploratory drilling of uranium deposits in South West Khasi Hills in 1993 and protests led to violence against AMD officials and destruction of their instruments.

Years after the AMD stopped the work, the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) closed down its establishment in the State after not receiving lease and statutory permission for its proposed open-cast uranium mining.

The Meghalaya government, in August 2016, revoked its 2009 decision granting permission to the UCIL to undertake exploratory activities in 422 hectares in South West Khasi hills.

Meghalaya has an estimated 9.22 million tonnes of high-grade uranium ore deposits.

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