Eppawela Rock Phosphate plan takes a new turn
The Eppawela Rock Phosphate plan, which ran into a storm many years back during the involvement of a US company, is taking a major shift in position.
The thinking now is to use this resource for domestic agriculture instead of the earlier plan to export it, exploit the phosphate deposit in a sustainable manner and reduce reliance on imported fertilizer.
The National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka is planning to harness the knowledge and experience of scientists who are involved in research work on this phosphate resource to prepare a comprehensive plan to use rock phosphate as fertilizer under its Coordinated Thematic Research Programme (CTRP) on Sustainable Utilization of Natural Resources. This was revealed at a recent meeting of experts engaged in the Eppawela Rock Phosphate research activities.
However a very senior Geological expert pointed out that mining of apatite mine at Eppawala in the Anuradhapura district will not only cause irreparable social and ecological damage, but also rapidly deplete the country of a valuable natural resource and contribute little in 'value-added' to the economy. He added that the Supreme Court had issued an injunction on June 2, 2000 restraining any contracts relating to the Eppawela Phosphate deposit. However other members who attended the meeting decided to go ahead with the development of the Programme Document for Eppawela Rock Phosphate as they were of the view that sustainable utilization of natural resources is essential not only for national development, but also to ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy the benefits of that development.
"We have proposed a plan to the government to make Single Super Phosphate (SSP) that can be substituted for Triple Super Phosphate (TSP), the entire requirement of which is imported for use in short-term crops like rice and vegetables," said Dr. Chandana Udawatte, Chairman of Lanka Phosphate Ltd. The island imports around 40,000 MT of TSP annually at a cost of about Rs 34,000 per tonne. "Instead of TSP we propose to make and use SSP, which is mainly used in India," said Dr Udawatte. "Local scientists have shown that rock phosphate can be converted to SSP and used to fertilise crops in Sri Lanka." He said that 92 percent of the total fertilizer consumption of the country is done through imports and the cost is around Rs 10 billion annually. The company has taken measures to manufacture Single Super Phosphate with the advice and research carried out at main rice and research centres in Bathalagoda and Bombuwala.
He added that the company has ventured into fertilizer mixing and blending to manufacture NPK, organic and bio-fertilizer and it has made a request from the NSF to provide a research grant of Rs 2 million towards this end.
A new phosphate company is to launched and it will commence operation soon to manufacture Single Super Phosphate. The floating of the company was delayed owing to the introduction of the new company law. The Cabinet has granted its approval to a memorandum submitted by Industrial Development Minister Kumara Welgama on the project proposal reports for the production of Single Super Phosphate (SSP).