'Thousands threatened' by giant iron mine in Burma

Burma mine site
As Burma prepares for national elections activists have launched a film to highlight the negative environmental and social impacts of the country’s largest iron mine

Construction of the controversial iron mine and factory at Mount Pinpet, in war-torn Shan State, Eastern Burma, part-funded by Russian state-owned Tyazhpromexport company, began in 2004 and is understood to be near completion.

Figures released by the Pa-Oh Youth Organisation (PYO) estimate that 100 villagers have already been ordered out of the area and a further 25 villages, a total of 7,000 people, could be permanently displaced from their homes.

In a previous report the PYO stated that by 2009, over 11,000 acres of farmland had been confiscated with little or no compensation offered. In September 2010, project officials offered 5,000 kyat (US $5.34) per acre in compensation for 1,000 acres destroyed across seven villages.

Serious concerns have been raised about the potential release of toxic waste into the Thabet stream which runs along the Eastern perimeter of the main Pinpet site. Approximately 35,000 people rely on the Thabet stream for agriculture, fishing, drinking water and bathing, say activists. It has been reported that two 20ft deep water storage ponds on the site of the mine, covering a 14.5 acre area, will pump water directly from the Thabet stream.

Activists have produced a video (see above) and leaflets highlighting the destruction already caused by the mining project, including what they say is a loss of farmlands, pollution of waterways, and abuses committed by the Burmese regime’s troops providing security for the project.

Farming is the principle means of subsistence for the majority Pa-Oh population in the region. As a result of the excavation of Mount Pinpet, vital farmlands are reportedly being carved up by bulldozers removing topsoil, trees and bushes. PYO also report high levels of arsenic found in soil samples from the surrounding area.

The group names several companies - including Russia's Tyazhpromexport and an Italian firm - as being involved in the mine.

Khun Chan Khe, Secretary of PYO said: ‘We want the companies [involved] to withdraw from the project. Communities are losing their livelihoods. Foreign investment should be officially denounced.'

Local information about the mine remains scarce, due to the secrecy of the SPDC [the Burmese authorities] and its restrictions on information, obtaining reliable data is extremely difficult' report the PYO.

The forthcoming elections have this week been denounced as a 'sham' by the UK Burma Campaign, whilst the UN have cast doubt on their legitimacy based on the Burmese junta's poor human rights record. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kui has been detained for a total of over 15 years and remains under house arrest.

Add to StumbleUpon
Trade in precious minerals and timber continues to fuel violence and conflict across the globe
Revenues obtained from the often illegal extraction and supply of commodities such as timber and diamonds are directly bankrolling corrupt regimes and armed insurgency groups, and fund the purchase of weapons that perpetuate cycles of conflict.
A thirst for power: China in Tibet
Since colonising Tibet in 1959, China has ripped out virgin forests, dug up minerals and metals, and dumped nuclear waste with little regard for the fragile ecology of the Tibetan plateau.
Or Myanmar, depending on which side of the military regime you find yourself. If like the companies below you support the regime, enjoy your visit to Myanmar. If not, please boycott Burma.
Campaigning: the basics
Top tips on getting a campaign off the ground - from letter writing and petitions to non-violent protest
Info-activism: using technology to force social change
A must-see documentary explores how campaigners are successfully using new technologies and tactics to change the status quo

More from this author