Chinese mining operations in a Tibetan-populated region of Qinghai province are wrecking the environment, with mountains stripped bare and waterways polluted by runoff from the mines, sources said.
Tibetan villagers are protesting the mining work in the Tsojang (in Chinese, Haibei) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, but have been blocked by close ties between mine owners and higher authorities, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“The mine owners make a lot of money from the mines,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And to continue their work, they pay money to authorities at the provincial and central-government levels.”
“So when we appeal for help to local authorities in the county and prefecture, they cannot address our concerns,” he said.
Last year, an elderly man named Ugyen Kyab from Gongma village in Tsojang’s Kangtsa (Gangcha) county appealed to Chinese central authorities to take action against mining in the area, RFA’s source said.
“But local authorities took him away and held him in detention,” he said.
Payments of 100,000 yuan [U.S. $16,090] promised in compensation to Tibetan nomads for the use of their land have also been denied, the source said.
“Excavations began with assurances that the nomads would be compensated later,” he said, adding, “The mining then began, but we were not given any kind of compensation.”
Mineral surveys in Tsojang over the last few years had revealed “rich deposits of iron, copper, and lime in our area,” RFA’s source said.
“Now, the mining is going full swing, with no consideration given to the local environment.”
The land available for grazing nomads’ herds is now drastically reduced, he said.
“The mountains have been opened and stripped bare, the valleys are filled with dust, and rivers and brooks have been contaminated, causing diseases for both humans and animals.”
Miners’ use of explosives has also hindered local Tibetans’ harvesting of cordyceps—a parasitic fungus that is prized and sold for its purported medicinal properties, he said.
“We, the local Tibetans, are now powerless to stop the mining activities in our area,” he said. “We appeal for help from anyone who cares about protecting the environment.”
Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of disrupting sites of spiritual significance and polluting the environment as they extract local wealth.
Reported by Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.