Chinese authorities have banned mining operations in an environmentally sensitive part of China’s northwestern Qinghai province where clashes last year between police and Tibetan protesters left dozens injured and eight detained, Tibetan sources said.
The move ending excavations in Dzatoe (in Chinese, Zaduo) county in the Yulshul (Yushu) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture followed widespread coverage in foreign news media of the protests and community leaders’ petitioning the central government in Beijing over the mining operations.
The area affected by the mining has been declared a protected zone, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service. “All mining activities have stopped in our area,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Here in Dzatoe, stone pillars have been set up in several places, marking these as National Protected Natural Areas,” the source said, adding that mining work has been halted not only in Dzatoe, but in areas close to the Drichu river, which flows through Yulshul, and the Machu river, which rises in neighboring Golog (Guoluo) prefecture.
The Drichu (Yangtse) and Dzachu (Mekong) rivers, which run through Yulshul, and the Machu (Yellow) river in Golog are protected at their headwaters in China’s regional Sanjiangyuan, or Three Rivers, Nature Reserve, though enforcement of environmental regulations has been uneven.
A marker for Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve. Credit: An RFA listener
An RFA listener
“Last year, some of our community members went all the way to Beijing to appeal to the Chinese central government to protect our environment, and took great risks to present our grievances to the authorities,” the source told RFA.
“Our protests and activities were also widely reported by news organizations, including your own,” he said. “So everything turned out well for us.”
A Tibetan source in exile confirmed that mining operations in the area have stopped.
“When [petitioners] put their case to the central government, pointing to corruption at the local level, authorities in Beijing finally issued an order through the provincial government to local authorities to stop the mining,” the source said Thursday, citing contacts in Dzatoe.
“The stone pillars were put up a few months ago, and everyone who was detained for protesting has now been released,” he said.
Calls seeking comment from Dzatoe county police rang unanswered on Thursday.
A boundary stone marking a protected area. Credit: An RFA listener
An RFA listener
On Aug. 15-16, 2013, hundreds of Tibetan villagers blocked work at three mining sites—Atoe, Dzachen, and Chikdza—in Dzatoe county, sparking clashes with Chinese security forces in Atoe and Dzachen that left eight detained and dozens injured.
Documents with government seals appearing to give central government approval for the work were later found to be fakes, a Tibetan source said in an earlier report.
When current Chinese prime minister Li Keqiang was formerly vice prime minister, he had issued general orders calling for mineral surveys to be conducted, RFA’s source in Dzatoe said.
“And this was deliberately misinterpreted by local authorities [in Dzatoe] as a central government order allowing Chinese mining companies to excavate minerals in Tibetan areas,” he said.
“But this year, the problem of mining activities in Atoe, Dzachen, and Chikdza has finally been resolved.”
Tibetan areas of China have become an important source of minerals needed for China’s economic growth, and mining operations 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.Reported by Lobsang Choephel, Guru Choegyi, and Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.