The lone local hard-rock mine in northern Dinajpur district is struggling to lure potential buyers, even if the domestic demand for the mineral has skyrocketed.
Maddhapara Granite Mining Company Ltd (MGMCL) is toiling to sell 1.6 million tonnes of stone annually as Bangladesh imports more than 20 million tonnes.
Its high-grade granite is in stock, but buyers opt for ‘lower-grade’ stone imports preferably from India, Bhutan, Vietnam and Dubai, industry insiders alleged.
Lowering down the prices of stones of varied sizes by the state entity several months back also ‘failed’ to lure buyers to pick state-owned stones.
Bangladesh imported around 21 million tonnes in fiscal year 2018-19, up 46 per cent from the previous year’s 13.6 million tonnes, said MGMCL managing director Md Fazlur Rahman.
The ongoing infrastructure development across the country is pushing up its consumption.
But unlike a spurt in imports, the sale of MGMCL’s rock is not increasing.
Officials said state-owned enterprises like railway, water development board, public works department, bridges division, Rooppur nuclear power project, and roads and highways are the main buyers of hard rock.
Private-sector real estate and industries also import granite, but its quantity is not that better.
The contractors of different state-sponsored projects opt for importing low-quality stones instead of using MGMCL granite.
Sources said a syndicate is active to import low-quality hard rock manipulating import procedure to avoid taxes, resulting in the low sale of MGMCL stones.
Against this backdrop, MGMCL, the company bestowed with the responsibility to extract hard rock and its sale, sought energy ministry’s intervention several times.
In reply, the ministry requested state-run entities time and again to buy local granite, but to no avail.
Higher costs of carrying stones by road from Maddhapara to buyers’ sites across the Jamuna act as a potential disincentive, they added.
Bridges division’s bar to carrying over 30 tonnes of stone by a single truck also limits MGMCL’s marketing, said a senior marketing officer of MGMCL.
The private sector is carrying around 50 tonnes of stone with a single truck, he added.
Despite having a railway to carry hard rock from Maddhapara mine site, it is not in operation for long.
Had the railway be operational, it would have reduced stone-carrying costs significantly, the official added.
Currently, granite extraction is being carried in three shifts with a daily production capacity of 4,000 tonnes against the total capacity of around 6,000 tonnes.
Maddhapara mine spans over 1.2 square kilometres and has a reserve of around 174 million tonnes of hard rock and granite.
Germania-Trest Consortium, a joint venture between Bangladesh-based Germania Corporation and Belarus-based JSC Trest Shakhtos Petsstroy, is currently operating the mine under a contract with MGMCL.
It initiated work in February 2014 to extract around 900,000 tonnes of rock in the first year of operations, 1.4 million tonnes in the second year.
The consortium also aimed to extract 1.6 million tonnes in third year, 1.7 million in fourth year, 1.8 million tonnes in fifth and sixth years of its operations.
North Korean company Namnam prepared and developed the mine in 2006 after working more than 12 years.
The mining authorities sell boulder, larger than 200 milimetre, at $30 per tonne and crushed rock, 60 millimetre to 5.0 millimetre, at $29 to $33.
Hard rock dust is being sold at $10 per tonne.
The state-run Geological Survey of Bangladesh discovered hard rock 136 metres underground at Maddhapara under Parbatipur sub-district in 1974.