Recent aerial surveys caused fears of govt. treasure hunt - JVP


By Saman Indrajith

The JVP told Parliament yesterday that a recent aerial survey conducted by the government, in the Matale, Dambulla and Kandy areas, using a helicopter, had caused a fear among the public that the government was searching for treasure believed to have been hidden underground by ancient kings.

JVP Parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, making a special statement, said that a land area of 207 sq. km. in those three areas, had been surveyed from Oct. 14, 2013 to Nov 04, 2013. It was called a Versatile Time Domain Electro-Magnetic Survey, to search for minerals. All the TV channels had telecast a helicopter, flying with circular shaped equipment, scanning the area. Some sections of the public opined that the government was hunting for archaeological treasure buried in those areas.

During the next couple of decades, there would be a revolution in the world’s energy sectors and all new cars and hybrid vehicles would be using new technology that needed batteries made of lithium and cadmium. Apart from that, nuclear technology, would be using a graphite type called plumbago. Those industries depended on high quality plumbago and Sri Lanka’s graphite was known for its high clarity and 99 percent carbon content. It was a known factor that there was a huge demand, the world over, for Lanka’s graphite.

The demand was higher than that of the 1920, 1930 and 1940 decades and during the times of the World War II, MP Dissanayake said. As the importance and value of Lankan graphite had been properly identified, several foreign companies, especially Australian businessmen, were eying them and conducting explorations. One such company was Bora Bora Resource Limited. They had appointed Plumbago Lanka (Pvt) Ltd. as their local representatives and assigned Geotech Airborne Limited and Senok Aviation to conduct airborne geophysical and electromagnetic surveys, he said.

Data obtained from above surveys could be used to locate not only graphite but also other metals underneath the earth, the JVP Parliamentary Group Leader claimed. In accordance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals Act No 33 of 1992, companies should obtain a licence for surveys and then obtain an excavation licence on the basis of data to dig up minerals. All they had to pay was a five percent royalty to the government and then they could export them. For a foreign company to obtain a survey licence to cover the entire land extent of this country, it cost only US $ 1.4 million. It is a meagre sum for a company such as Bora Bora Resource Limited.

The officials of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) had told the media that the on-going one was the first electromagnetic aerial survey in this country. They were wrong, the MPā€ˆsaid. In 1958, a geophysical aerial electromagnetic survey had been conducted and land areas of 20,000 sq. km had been surveyed by the Department of Mineralogy, which later evolved into the GSMB.

The JVP Parliamentary Group Leader demanded to know whether the issuing of a licence for the exploration of 207 sq. km of land was legal, whether the Director General of GSMB could issue such permits to private investors and whether the GSMB had assigned any of its officials to make sure the private companies had used the equipment and land areas specified in their applications.

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