Chinese authorities in Tibet’s Driru county are moving ahead with plans to mine resources from a mountain sacred to local Tibetans after forcing area residents to agree to the project and taking one man into custody for refusing to approve, a local source says.
The mountain, called Sebtra Dzagen, is located in the northern part of Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county in the Nagchu (Naqu) prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and is a pilgrimage site and home to many rare wild animals, a Tibetan living in the region told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
“Beginning at the end of 2017, the Chinese government began to plan to excavate at Sebtra Dzagen, and roads are being built in the foothills of the mountain to pave a way for the mining,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Locals believe that mining activities on this sacred mountain may lead to the extinction of animal species such as wild sheep, antelope, and elk, and could possibly trigger landslides on nearby Drakkar mountain, located just to the left of Sebtra Dzagen,” the source said.
“Any landslide could block the flow of the river, which would be a catastrophe for the people living in the villages,” he said.
When Chinese officials at the end of February forced local villagers to sign their approval for the mining to proceed, one village head refused to sign and was taken into custody, the source said.
“Karma, the head of Markor village, said that he would sign his name only if the local Chinese officials produced a letter from two Tibetan higher-ups named Radi and Tenzin showing their own approval for the work, and he was detained by the police,” he said.
Beginning March 5, Chinese workers began to set up red flags to mark off areas at Sebtra Dzagen to build camps for miners, the source said.
“No one knows if the mining has been approved by China’s central government, but some key officials from Driru were present when the land was being marked off for the project,” he said.
Tibet has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and Chinese mining operations in Tibetan areas have often led to widespread environmental damage, including the pollution of water sources for livestock and humans and the disruption of sacred sites, experts say.
Reported by Dawa Dolma for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.