Village residents oppose land takeover for opencast coal mine

Coal mining. (Photo: IANS)

Landowners have threatened to launch a large-scale protest and movement against the acquisition of land by the central public utility company Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) in Nituria block of Purulia district for a future opencast coal mine project.

Coal giant ECL, headquartered at Sanctoria in West Burdwan district, has planned to set up opencast coal mines in a virgin coal block and requires 300 acres of land for the proposed project at Bhamuria and Parbelia mouzas.

About nine lakh tonnes of coal are stored in this coal block at Gosaidih in Bhamuria gram panchayat in Nituria block of Purulia district and Saltore mouza in Parbelia.

Residents of twelve villages falling under Bhamuria and Saltore gram panchayats started the agitation under the patronage of the Jomi Rakshya Committee (a non-political organisation) after the preliminary survey work of the ECL’s Open Cast Coal Mine (OCP) project began a few days ago.

The villagers stated that they do not want to make their land available for the open-pit coal mining project and would like to continue farming in these areas.

Anil Kumar Singh, CEO of Sodepur Area of ​​​​Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL), said the central public sector coal producer has planned to set up an opencast coal mine in Purulia district. The work on the project is in the initial stage and surveying work has already begun.

The compensation for each plot of land is Rs 14,000, but villagers say they have not received any compensation for previous acquisitions so far.

Biplab Marandi, local leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), said the villagers have already started protesting and will take action in the coming days.

“The nature of the area is agricultural, and the villagers are dependent on agriculture, although most of them are monoculture areas, but there are also areas where many crops are grown. The villagers fear that after a few years, when the underground coal resources are exhausted, the company will close the mine and they will lose their income,” he added.

So far, there has been no official statement on the matter from the local civil authorities, police or the ruling party.

ECL sources said the project would generate local employment opportunities. While the land surface belonged to local residents, the underground coal reserves are national property.