Green Groups Give Mine Feedback

A panel charged with probing the divisive project will deliver its findings directly to Burma’s president.

2013.01.11
copper-mine-305.jpg Wastewater at the Chinese-owned Letpadaung copper mine in central Burma's Sagaing division, Oct. 17, 2012.
RFA

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Friday that environmental experts have given the “true situation” behind a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in northern Burma, more than a month after police launched a violent crackdown on demonstrators opposed to the project.

The Nobel laureate, who is leading a 30-member commission investigating the feasibility of the mine project located near Monywa city, said the panel will submit its initial findings to President Thein Sein within weeks.

“Now we know the specific situation surrounding the copper mine because environmental experts have submitted what they saw and told us the true situation in the area,” the Nobel laureate told reporters.

“These environmental experts—who are not members of the commission—are experienced and skillful. They are independent experts,” she said.

Activists have called for a halt to work at the mine located in Burma’s Sagaing Division to be suspended to allow impact studies amid claims of mass evictions and pollution.

Aung San Suu Kyi said that there are also several environmental experts who are members of the commission and that they had already investigated complaints over the mine and submitted their findings.

Aung San Suu Ky, speaking ahead of a parliamentary meeting in the capital Naypyidaw, said that “a special report on project will be submitted this month.”

She said that the commission would send the report to Thein Sein only and that its findings on the impact of the mine would not be made public.

Mine controversy

The commission’s initial findings follow weeks of demonstrations over the Burmese government’s handling of criticism against the mining project, which included a Nov. 29 brutal pre-dawn police crackdown on camps set up by protesters opposed to the project at the site.

Ninety-nine monks and 11 others, according to authorities, were injured in the raid, which was the toughest crackdown on demonstrators since a reformist government came to power in Burma last year.

Photos of burns sustained by monks in the raid, reminiscent of a violent government crackdown on the 2007 monk-led Saffron Revolution movement, prompted a public outcry in the Buddhist-majority country.

While the government has issued a public apology for the crackdown, protesters say it has not gone far enough and called for legal action against authorities responsible for using violence in the raid.

The Burmese government formed the inquiry commission to look into the future of the mine following the raid, but November crackdown is not within its purview.

The project in the Letpadaung mountains is a joint venture between the Burmese military’s Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd. and Wan Bao Co., a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer North China Industries Corp. (Norinco).

Letpadaung villagers have said that they do not want pollution from the mine to destroy the area and that authorities had confiscated some 8,000 acres (3,000 hectares) of farmland from 26 villages to make way for the mine.

Reported by Win Naung Toe for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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