The fast tracking of the graphite industry modernization process came to light following the end of the hunger strike of Kahatagaha graphite mine workers who protested against the selling of 49 percent shares of the mine to a private firm.
Minister Rishad Bathiutheen noted that the protest campaign and mine workers hunger strike had been orchestrated by a leftist party and the allegations of the privatization of graphite mines in Sri Lanka were unfounded.
He said that the government has not taken a decision to sell mines to local or foreign companies but it will entertain the private sector participation in modernizing the industry with value addition.
Sri Lanka is the world’s only source of lump and chippy dust graphite in the world fetching high price, he said adding that the country should harness maximum foreign exchange from its unique graphite. The country currently produces around 4,000 metric tons of graphite per annum.
He further pointed out that the government will entertain proposals of local and international firms to modernize the graphite industry to meets the needs of the world and the graphite rich country cannot lag behind by continuing aged old practices in mining.
He revealed that Lanka Graphite Ltd and several other local and foreign firms have expressed their interest to enter into public private partnership with the government to improve the industry and such companies should made their proposals a fresh for consideration under te present circumstances.
Referring to the workers hunger strike, he said that, the government has given an assurance to them in writing by Deputy Minister Champika Premadsa on Thursday that the Kahatagaha mine will not be sold to any private company and the government will take every possible step to ensure the job security of workers.
The workers who were misguided by certain leftwing Marxist political parties have called of their strike following discussions with government authorities he said. Kahatagaha mine is producing 80 tonnes monthly, and is planning to increase production to 125 tonnes monthly.