Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Copper mine officials defend their actions

Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:04 Mizzima News

Officials of the Monywa copper mine project in Burma’s northwestern Sagaing region said work at the protest-beleaguered mine is being carried out legally conforming to international standards, in a press conference in Rangoon on Monday.

Demonstrators march on Thursday, September 5, 2012, protesting the confiscation of farmers' land for a state-backed mining operation. Photo: Aung Nay Myo / facebook

The copper extraction project has been jointly undertaken by the Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd (ECL) and China's Wanbao Mining Ltd and Yang Tze Copper Ltd, legally registered in Burma after Ivanhoe, a Canadian company, pulled out two years ago.

The project is supervised by a third party of Singaporean experts who inspect the project once every six months, said a mine official.

The water safety level in the area conformed to the required standard, he added.

When asked about the protesters’ charges of unfair compensation given to local farmers for moving their homes, an official said procedures were done according to the highest standards.

Geng Yi, the general manager of China's Wan Bao company and Yang Tze Copper Ltd, said all its projects are carried out under the country's law, while respecting the nation's culture, customs and religious practices.

Mizzima reported that in early September, hundreds of security forces stormed the copper mine site in search of land rights activists who helped organize earlier protests by 10,000 villagers demanding the return of land they said was unfairly seized for the project.

The police arrived at the Monywa mine but were held off by hundreds of demonstrators armed with sticks and knives who were guarding the area. Dozens of protest organizers were later arrested and charged with violating various laws.

Villagers said the mining companies have illegally confiscated more than 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares) of farmland from 26 villages in Sarlingyi since 2011.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks since Wan Bao has continued digging at the site and dumped waste soil on the confiscated land despite a request to suspend work and enter negotiations, said protesters.

Villagers began protesting near Wan Bao's office since August to demand adequate compensation, the return of confiscated lands, a stop to forced relocations, the reopening of locked monasteries, and an end to the dumping of waste on their fields.

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