Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mining companies welcome Latpadaung report

Wednesday, 13 March 2013 19:12 Mizzima News

Both of the contractors at the Latpadaung copper mine—the Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd and Myanma Economic Holdings—have welcomed the Inquiry Commission’s report and confirm that they will follow its recommendations.

The Commission—chaired by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi—released its findings on Tuesday into a violent incident at the site of a copper mine in Sagaing Region on November 29 when riot police violently dispersed activists, including Buddhist monks.

The report concluded that the controversial mining project should not be closed down, but that its social and environmental impacts must be acknowledged by the companies concerned.

In a statement on behalf of Chinese mining company Wanbao, Yangon-based administration manager Dong Yun Fei said that the company welcomed the verdict and decisions of the Inquiry Commission’s report.

“We are committed to protecting the environment to the best international practices,” he said. “We are also committed to improving the lives of the families, children and our wider community. We will help and listen to the needs of the local community in improving their quality of life.”

He said that Wanbao would continue contributing to the sustainable development of the local community and of Myanmar as a whole.

A day earlier on March 12, Myanma Economic Holdings Co Ltd released a statement in the state-run New Light of Myanmar in which it said it would act on the Commission’s suggestions with regard to land compensation and land reclamations.

It also stated it would attain international standard certification on issues related to environment, conservation, health and safety at the work site, and would offer jobs and bring benefits to the local community.

However, many locals have reacted angrily to the Commission’s findings. Wimala, one of the leaders of the protest against the project, told Mizzima, “If they choose to continue the project as the report says, we will continue protesting to stop it.”

Perhaps the most damaging part of the Commission’s findings was the acknowledgement that phosphorous was used in smoke bombs aimed at protesters on the night of the crackdown, resulting in many monks and activists suffering horrific burns.

An independent lawyers’ network subsequently announced that a canister from the site had been transferred to Bangkok where it was analyzed and found to contain phosphorous, an incendiary used in warfare.

But the Commission’s report did not recommend punitive measures against the riot police nor point fingers at anyone in authority for the crackdown. Instead it recommended that police be accorded specific riot control training.

An Implementation Committee has now been set up at the recommendation of the Commission to ensure that the mining companies abide by their pledges.

Gao Mingbo, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, said, “The Chinese Government will continue to encourage Chinese companies to conduct cooperation with the Myanmar side based on the principle of mutual benefit, so that our joint projects will promote the economic development of Myanmar and bring benefits to both peoples.”
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