Myanmar Villagers Demand Land Compensation From Copper Mine Operator

Protesters want China’s Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. Company to give them 1,900 acres in restitution for lost crops.

Protesters march near the Letpadaung copper mine in Sarlingyi township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, March 13, 2013.

About 100 residents from the town of Letpadaung protested on Tuesday against the Chinese company that operates a controversial copper mine in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, a villager said.

The protesters blocked the road to the mine and demanded that Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. Company give them the 1,900 acres of land they were supposed to receive according to the recommendations of a parliamentary commission, Ko La Pyae from Moegyopyin Ale village said.

The acres are compensation for damage from the construction of the project to the villagers’ crops and to their social and business standing, he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“They [Wanbao] haven’t paid any compensation for crops for three years, Ko La Pyae said. “We stopped the trucks from going to the copper mine project, blocked the road, and asked for the crop compensation.

“We did it because we want responsible people to come and solve the problem,” he said.

The large project run by Wanbao and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL), a Myanmar army-owned conglomerate, has come under fire by local farmers who have long protested the company’s land takeovers in the area.

The commission had reviewed the project in the wake of a violent police raid on protesters at the mine site in 2012 and found that Wanbao had inadequately compensated farmers for their land and that the appropriation process lacked transparency.

Farmers who lost crops in 2014 and 2015 during later land confiscations for the mine project demanded proper compensation from Wanbao.

The company said that it had offered the farmers money, but that they refused to accept it. Wanbao also indicated that it would not compensate villagers annually for money they would have otherwise made from crops, because the company leased the land from the government, not the farmers.

The mine is one of several Chinese-operated projects in Myanmar that have been heavily criticized by local residents because of land expropriations without adequate compensation and potential and actual environmental damage.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.