Tibetans in Tense Standoff With Chinese Miners

Rescuers search for workers buried after a landslide at Gyama mine in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar county, March 30, 2013.

Hundreds of Tibetan villagers have blocked work at three mining sites and confronted Chinese miners in northwestern Qinghai province, drawing concerns from authorities who have deployed a large security force to the area, sources in the region and in exile say.

The standoff began on Tuesday when large numbers of Chinese mine workers arrived at three sites in the Gedrong area of Qinghai’s Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) county in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a Tibetan living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.

“At the same time, several hundred Tibetans gathered at the sites to block mining activities,” the source, named Konchok Dondrub, said, citing sources in the region.

“Tension is building in the area,” he said amid villagers' concerns that the mining activities are not sanctioned by national authorities and that they could trigger pollution and other problems.

Separately, a Dzatoe resident confirmed the standoff, adding that a large Chinese security force had quickly deployed to the area.

“Several hundred security personnel arrived on Tuesday and have set up tents beside their vehicles,” the man said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The three sites at which work has been blocked are at Atoe Yultso, Chidza Yultso, and Dzachen Yultso, with the Chinese planning to begin excavations at Garwa Chegye mountain at Atoe, Dzagu mountain at Chidza, and Dorje Rabsel mountain at Dzachen, Konchok Dondrub said.

Diamonds are reported to have been found in the area, he said.

Assurances rejected

Tibetan protesters have rejected assurances given by the mine operators that they have a national permit to begin work at the mines, and have vowed to continue their protest “to the last Tibetan standing,” Dondrub told RFA on Thursday.

“They have said they will only accept a public announcement on television by [Chinese president] Xi Jinping himself saying the mine workers have permission to proceed.”

Mining operations in Tibetan regions have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms of polluting the environment and disrupting sites of spiritual significance as they extract local wealth.

In March, operations at the Gyama mine in Tibet’s Maldro Gongkar (Mozhugongka) county near Lhasa caused a catastrophic landslide that killed 83 miners.

And in January, Tibetan sources told RFA that Chinese-operated mines in Lhundrub (Linzhou) 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 Kunsang Tenzin for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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