The controversial Chinese-backed copper mine in northwestern Burma will continue to operate despite a growing national outcry against the project, local authorities said.
|The copper mine at Monywa in Sagaing Division. Photo: Mizzima|
The governor of Sarlingyi, the township where the copper mine is located, sent a notice to six village heads in the area on Wednesday telling them that the mine would not be halted because it is a “friendship” joint venture between Burma and China, Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday.
The project in the Letpadaung mountains is owned jointly by the Burmese military’s powerful Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd. and Wan Bao Co., a subsidiary of state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer North China Industries Corp. (Norinco).
Villagers – who say that the mine developers have illegally confiscated more than 3,200 hectares (8,000 acres) of farmland from 26 villages without providing adequate compensation – had already been given complete compensation, company officials said.
Villagers in Sarlingyi Township near Monywa in Sagaing Division have staged mass demonstrations against the mine over the past few months, backed by locals and rights groups around Burma.
Some 2,000 villagers and supporters held a forum this week near the mine to discuss opposition to the project.
Conference organizers read messages of support sent by groups and activists including the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, the United Nationalities Alliance, the Kayan New Party, the Kokant Democratic Party, the Burma Communist Party, and writer Dagon Taryar, among others, said the RFA report.
Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to Burma said Beijing would stop backing Wan Bao’s development of the mine if the project did not benefit Burma, RFA said.
“If this project brings no benefit to the Myanmar [Burmese] people, the Chinese government will not support or endorse it,” Ambassador Li Junhua said at a press conference on Sunday, according to a press release posted on the Facebook page of the Chinese Embassy in Burma. “Because it not only concerns the image of the Chinese company, but also the image of China and the Chinese government,” he said.
His comments came the same day as an opinion piece in Chinese state media’s Global Times newspaper said Chinese companies need to “attach more importance to grassroots voices” in carrying out investment projects such as the Monywa mine.