New test blast to assess danger to unique rock cave


The Geological Mines and Survey Bureau (GMSB) has carried out a new test blast in the quarry area close to the historic Piyangala rock cave in Ampara at the request of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) amidst mounting public protests that the mining in the area be stopped as it is harming the archaeological site.

The test blast was carried out to once again ascertain the extent of the vibrations caused by the mining and whether the rock cave comes within the limits set, GMSB Chairman Dr N.B.Wijayananda said.
The GSMB had granted a licence to the SLPA for mining in the area in 2007 after the relevant test blasts were done. At that time no gazetted archaeological sites were in the area where the mining is now taking place, he said.

Local politicians as well as residents have then raised concerns about the mining around the rock cave area. The possible harmful impact on the rock cave - said to be the only one in the country containing frescos of the Veddahs - came up for discussion at the Consultative Committee of the Cultural Affairs Ministry in Parliament last week as well.

It was also raised as an adjournment motion by JVP Digamadulla district MP Wasantha Piyatissa who said that due to heavy dynamiting in the area, the cave could suffer irreparable damage. Cultural Affairs Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene said he was waiting to see the report of the GSMB and if there was no satisfactory response within two weeks, he would order the suspension of the mining in the area and ask the Archeological Department to reassess the situation.

“As far as I know, no harm has been done to the rock cave. Under the Mahinda Chintanaya, no archeological sites in the country will come to any harm,” he assured Parliament. The mining is taking place to turn out metal for use in the construction work on the Oluvil Port project.

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