The Pulmoddai mineral sands robbery



It is regretful to hear the story of the mineral sand robbery by some politically influential thugs in the surrounding villages of Pulmoddai. As reported, politically influential thugs have taken the law unto their hands, take lorry loads of mineral sand and sell them to be used as a construction material very much in demand, at exorbitant prices.


Pulmoddai mineral deposit is a gazetted state property owned by the government and vested with Lanka Mineral Sands Ltd. (L M S L), which again is a fully owned state enterprise with 100% shares owned by The General Treasury of Sri Lanka. In addition, the LMSL has to obtain licences every year from the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau of Sri Lanka, who implement and administer mining and mineral excavation. LMSL is the biggest single contributor in taxes to the Kuchchaveli Pradesiya Sabha. As the said sand thieves don't pay even a cent to Kuchchaveli PS, it is something like killing its only cash cow, as there are no other big businesses in the area to pay a reasonable tax to Kuchchaveli P S.


Pulmoddai mineral sand deposit is one of the richest mineral sand deposits in the world. The national reawakening of Sri Lanka, in the late 1950s, under the Bandaranaike government, was instrumental for the establishment of the Mineral Sands Corporation in 1957. Ilmenite, rutile, and zircon are the major mineral sand varieties being extracted, solely for export.


This writer is of the view that except the ministers and some deputies who were in charge of Mineral Sands Ltd, under a ministry portfolio, no other members of parliament had an insight or knowledge about Sri Lanka’s mineral sands and deposits and their enormous hidden value. Except for the business sharks, the general public has no notion about mineral sands. The Australian Mining Magazine once stated "the Pulmoddai deposit is the richest mineral sand deposit in the Earth planet" for the reason it is the only deposit in the world that contains more than 80% of usable mineral sands. It appears the general public is not aware of the multiple uses of mineral sands. Titanium extracted from Rutile is the most expensive substance, the hardest and lightest and excessively heat resistant metal widely used in the aviation industry, furnaces working non-stop in steel and iron manufacture, aero engines etc. It is also used for ceramics, glazing textile dying, pharmaceuticals, paints, inks, paper, plastic coatings, whitening drug coating, and for a wide range of needs. So far no substitute has been discovered for titanium. The Pulmoddai mineral sand plant was the only public enterprise that continued to operate throughout the 30-year war in the North and East, while KKS cement plant, Paranthan Chemicals Corporation had to be shut down. Although production was suspended, after sinking two mineral sand loaded ships off Trincomalee, the manufacturing plant continued to remain functioning.


We also must be grateful to the one and only person, the general manager/plant manager, Mr. S.A.Nandadeva, who joined the then Lanka Mineral Sands Corp direct from the university, and served nearly 50 years sacrificing his entire life even after retirement, including the 30-year war period, being resident in Pulmoddai. He was kidnapped twice by LTTE terrorists, however was lucky to escape death. If not for his personal sacrifice the present LMSL would not have been in existence. The other important factor was LMSL had sufficient deposits in the Treasury, with earnings by small shipments made through Colombo for its survival during the entire 30-year war period, including bonus payments without being a burden to the taxpayers of the country.


During the period 1998-2003 a request was made by the Ministry of Highways for the purchase of sand for road construction. This request was denied as the mineral extracted sand still had about 20% valuable mineral sand, yet the optimum processing capacity of our machines was about 60%. Hence the present sand deposits are still rich in valuable mineral sands, if we have the advanced technological knowhow. It is this valuable sand, these culprits are exploiting to make a fast buck. With a police post and army camp next to Pulmoddai plant, we cannot understand as to how these culprits have become the law unto themselves. If the government is not making full use of these treasures, for unavailability of new technology, it is the duty of a responsible government to, let them remain for our future generations, as it is not mandatory to exploit or allow rowdies to exploit valuable mineral sands for masonry work.


SUSIRI GAMAGE


Personnel and Administration Manager (1998-2003) Lanka Mineral Sands Ltd


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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