Lao Village, Road Damaged by Chinese Coal Mining Operations

2016-03-21
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Damage to a road in Namngeun village in Laos is shown in a March 16 photo.
Damage to a road in Namngeun village in Laos is shown in a March 16 photo.
RFA

Mining operations by a Chinese coal company in northern Laos are causing structural damage to a road and houses in a nearby village, prompting complaints by local residents to central government authorities, sources say.

Drilling by the Chinese Boualay Mangkonthong company has opened long fissures in a local highway and damaged power lines, houses, and school buildings in Namngeun village in Luang Namtha province’s Viengphoukha district, one villager told RFA’s Lao Service.

“There are many cracks in the village and along Highway R3,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.  “The company will not come to repair this, and will only bulldoze the surface of the road.”

“We are waiting for the company to fix things,” he said.

Following complaints to authorities in the Lao capital Vientiane, officials from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport came to inspect damage to the village and the highway, noting several houses in imminent danger of collapse, the source said.

Cracks as long as 300 meters (984 feet) were also found running along the road, he said.

Disaster zone

A Feb. 2 report by the ministry’s department of roads and bridges has now identified a 5-km (3.107 mile) stretch of highway through the mining area as a potential disaster zone, sources say.

The report also charges the mining firm, which has operated in the area since 2014 with a capital investment of U.S. $5 million, with responsibility to fix the road, though no mention is made of repairs to villagers’ homes.

No new mine will be allowed to open in the area until the old one is closed, according to the report.

Calls by RFA seeking comment from senior officials of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport in Luang Namtha and in Vientiane rang unanswered or were not returned.

Extraction operations by Chinese and Lao copper mining companies have already damaged areas of northern Laos’ Oudomxay province, polluting water sources, destroying forests, and causing dangerous levels  of soil subsidence, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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