Tibetans Fear New Mine is Planned For Polluted Gyama Valley

2015-08-05
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River polluted by mining in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar county, in an undated photo.
River polluted by mining in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar county, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Chinese road-building crews have begun cutting a new track leading to Gyama Valley near Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa, leading to local fears that a new mine may soon be built in a region already heavily polluted by Chinese extraction operations, sources say.

New mining in the area of the copper-rich Gyama township, which lies in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Maldro Gongkar (in Chinese, Mozhugongka) county, could begin as early as this month, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Many workers have been seen busy on construction in the area,” RFA’s source said, citing local contacts.

Both government and privately owned mining companies have been active in extracting ore from Gyama Valley in recent years, leading to frequent Tibetan protests over harm caused to the environment and local livestock, a second exile source said, also citing contacts in the area.

“What we are seeing now may be plans for a new mine [in Gyama],” he said.

Tibet has become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and Chinese mining operations in Tibet have often led to widespread environmental damage, including the pollution of water sources for both livestock and humans, experts say.

“In the past, our rivers were crisp and clean, and the mountains and valley were known for their natural beauty,” one Gyama resident told RFA in an earlier report.

“Now the rivers are polluted with poisonous waste from the mines,” he said.

Operations at one Gyama mine, scene of a catastrophic landslide that killed 83 in March 2013, have already fouled local water sources, experts say.

Reported by Thubten Sangye for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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