The fourth of the Mir Moinul Huq Memorial Lecture Series titled “Atomic and Heavy Mineral Resources of Bangladesh; and their importance in the industries including Nuclear Power Plant” was held virtually on February 27, 2021. The keynote paper was presented by Dr. Eunus Akon, former Chief Geologist & Director, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. Around 40 geologists/geoscientists participated in the meeting from Canada, USA, Australia and Bangladesh.
During the presentation, Dr. Akon pointed out that most of the geological elements that are considered to be favorable for the accumulation of uranium/thorium bearing atomic minerals are present in the geological setup of Bangladesh. Mineralogical studies of the radioactive sandstones from Sylhet have confirmed the presence of uranium-rich atomic minerals uranothorite and thorianite along with other radioactive minerals. For the sustainable development of the nuclear power program and considering the importance of indigenous source of uranium, Dr. Akon suggested that a detailed exploration needs to be carried out to map the potential areas of Bangladesh.
He mentioned that a systematic exploration in the south-eastern coastal belt of Bangladesh has resulted in the discovery of a good number of heavy minerals in the coastal beaches and offshore islands. Heavy mineral deposits constitute about two million tonnes which is comprised of ilmenite, garnet, zircon, leucoxene, kyanite, rutile, magnetite and monazite. He also briefed about the location of heavy mineral deposits, its characteristics, reserves, mineralogy, geochemistry, uses, prices and economic viabilities.
Dr. Akon strongly criticised that proper attention is yet to be given by the government agencies for the development of these heavy mineral resources in spite of their substantial economic potential. He also appraised the importance of uranium in nuclear power program and heavy minerals exploration by Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Geological Survey of Bangladesh and Institute of Mines and Metallurgy.
Following the presentation, a panel discussion was held by experts. Mr. Baharul Alam Biswas, General Manager at Everlast Minerals Limited, emphasized on the opportunity to develop a world class mineral sands industry in Bangladesh. He mentioned that there are some international and local companies already involved in the beach environment of the southern coastal regions and the bars mainly under Bhola, Patuakhali and Noakhali Districts, and at places as shoals in the continental shelf of the Bay of Bengal. Mr. Bahar informed that the government of Bangladesh is keen to develop this industry and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given an instruction at an ECNEC meeting in 2016 to work on it with an aim to explore and exploit valuable heavy minerals from the river beds and already approved two projects to identify valuable heavy minerals in the sandbars of the rivers and to set up a mineral sands processing center by the Institute of Mining, Mineralogy and Metallurgy at Joypurhat.
Dr. Mohammad Rajib, Principal Geologist at the Institute of Nuclear Minerals, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, gave importance on exploration and processing of placer minerals of Bangladesh. He mentioned that many changes occurred at the coastal areas of Bangladesh during last 20 years due to natural and anthropogenic reasons.
Dr. Badrul Imam emphasized on proper documentation of resources as the first task for geologists and pointed out that there are new land masses being emerged in the Bay of Bengal. He suggested mapping the land as soon as possible.
The review of the presentation was conducted by Mr. Mortuza Ahamed Faruque, former Managing Director of BAPEX. He appreciated that a very useful and excellent presentation has been given by Mr. Akon and the valuable contributions from the discussants. He informed the meeting about updated information on major existing nuclear power plants in the different countries of the world.
Mr. Mortuza briefed about the long history of the construction of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project which was conceived in 1961 and given emphasis on necessity of uranium mining in Bangladesh. He also informed that the government is actively considering and planning construction of a second nuclear power plant by 2031 and 3rd by 2041.
The chairperson of the session was Mr. Nazmul Hossain, geoscientist from USA. The meeting was anchored by Mr. Jasimuddin, a retired geologist from Dhaka, and the Chief Coordinator was Mr. Nazim Ahmed, geologist who lives in Calgary, Canada.
Mortuza Ahmad Faruque, Energy Specialist and former Managing Director, BAPEX