Rock extraction at Parbatipur upazila in Dinajpur has remained suspended for over eight months due to lack of necessary equipment, making nearly 800 local miners jobless.
Belarus-based Germania-Trest Consortium (GTC) hired the workers on a daily basis after it signed a contract with state-run Madhyapara Granite Mining Company Ltd (MGMCL), tasked with the production and sale of the rocks, in September 2013.
The miners are passing extremely hard days as they have not got a single penny since August last year, when the production was suspended.
“I looked for other jobs to feed my family. But I did not get one,” said Mohammad Rezaul, the lone breadwinner in his family of six.
“After the work stopped, we were told that it would resume in a month. It has been over eight months now.”
Several other miners said they borrowed money from others and sold their valuables to feed their families.
Many children in the area had to quit school as their parents could not pay the tuition fees.
The MGMCL is also facing a financial loss.
It has not been able to sell rocks to its main clients -- Bangladesh Railway, Roads and Highways Department, Water Development Board and construction companies under different government and non-government organisations, said its officials.
However, they hoped that the production would resume within the end of this month as “the equipment had already been purchased and would reach the mine site very soon.”
Mohammad Aminuzzaman, former acting managing director of the MGMCL, claimed that the company would be able to overcome the loss once the production resumed.
For rock extraction and mine maintenance, the MGMCL signed the contract with the GTC in September, 2013 and the production began in February next year.
Operating three shifts, the foreign company was producing nearly 4,000 tonnes of rocks daily. Still, it was nearly 1,500 tonnes less than the quantity mentioned in the project proposal, said MGMCL officials.
Every day, the company was increasing its production and was heading steadily towards the target. But suddenly in August last year, it shut down the production, saying many of the available equipment went out of order and the work could not continue this way.
As per the agreement, the MGMCL was supposed to provide the GTC with the machines, said officials of the state-run company.
Abul Basar, the then managing director of the MGMCL, had told The Daily Star that they could not buy the equipment for lack of funds.
Later, Basar was removed, and Mohammad Aminuzzaman, managing director of Barapukuria Coal Mining Company Limited, was made the acting MD of the company.
In November last year, the MGMCL initiated the process to import the equipment worth Tk 100 crore with financial support from its parent organisation, Petrobangla.
MGMCL officials said the equipment was already in the Chittagong port and was about to reach the mine site.
“It would not take more than a month for resuming the production once the machines reach the site,” said a top official, wishing not to be named.
While visiting the site in Parbatipur recently, this correspondent talked to several rock traders. They said they had to import rock from India after failing to get those from the MGMCL.
In the last eight months, nearly 20,000 tonnes of rocks were imported through the Hili Land Port in Dinajpur alone, according to the port officials.
Shipment of Indian rock also enters Bangladesh through the Benapole port in Jessore and the Sonamasjit port in Chapainawabganj.
Engineer Nawshad Islam, who joined the MGMCL as its MD on March 23 this year, said he hoped that the production would resume “very quickly”.