As many as 5,000 Tibetans have protested against Chinese mining operations at a site considered sacred by local residents, drawing a large security force to the area and prompting fears of clashes, according to Tibetan sources this week.
The protest last Friday took place at Naglha Dzambha mountain in Tibet’s Driru (in Chinese, Biru) county, the scene of similar protests two years ago, sources said.
“On May 24, about 100 members a Chinese company arrived at Naglha Dzambha on the pretext of putting up cable towers and power lines and building hydroelectric projects for the benefit of the people,” a resident of the area told an RFA Tibetan Service call-in show on Saturday.
“Actually, they were there to mine minerals,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
About 5,000 local Tibetans then gathered in Driru to protest, he said, and of that number, 3,500 went to the pilgrimage site to demand an end to the project, saying “Please leave our resources where they are.”
Six men chosen to represent the people of Driru approached the Chinese company with a petition not to further harm the local environment, but authorities on Saturday deployed security forces in about 50 trucks to the protest site, RFA’s source said.
County authorities later “gave in to the popular outcry and made an announcement to that effect,” easing immediate fears of a crackdown, but Tibet’s India-based exile government in a separate report described the situation in Driru as “tense.”
Mining operations in Tibetan regions 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.
In March, operations at the Gyama mine in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar county near Lhasa caused a catastrophic landslide that killed 83 miners.
And in January, Tibetan sources told RFA that Chinese-operated mines in Lhundrub county, also near Lhasa, have caused “severe” damage to local forests, grasslands, and drinking water.
Waste from the mines, in operation since 2005, “has been dumped in the local river, and mining activities have polluted the air,” one source said.
Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.