Civil Society Reps Blast Burma’s Opaque Extractive Industries

By Yen Saning 26 June 2015

RANGOON — A group of civil society stakeholders called on the government on Friday to halt all extractive projects in ethnic areas until a ceasefire is brokered between Naypyidaw and ethnic armed groups.

At a press conference held in Rangoon, the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) issued a statement criticizing Burma’s extractive industries for a lack of transparency and accountability and called for public participation in the decision making process regarding large-scale projects.

MATA representatives from various states and divisions detailed the secretive practices behind resource extraction projects in their regions and the negative social and environmental effects.

In some cases, MATA said, natural resources were being extracted unofficially during the implementation stage of projects. K Zaw Lun, a MATA representative from Kachin State, said soil dug during initial construction efforts on the now suspended Myitsone Dam was transported to China.

Tin Ko Ko Oo from Tenasserim Division claimed dredging in the species-rich Myeik area, involving a Singapore registered company and the military-owned Myawaddy Trading company, had damaged coral reefs and caused soil erosion which threatened the region’s marine life.

Naw Thapi Thar described the opaque development of a tin and ore extraction project in Pegu Division which the government had licensed to two companies. When locals sought to question authorities over the project and its potential impacts, they were met with silence.

“We formed a group to stop the project and inspected roads constructed in the name of community development. But the roads are not for local development, but constructed for the company to use,” she said.

Tint Aung Soe, a representative from Sagaing, said land issues related to the Letpadaung copper mine, the nearby copper extraction site on Sabe mountain and the Kyay Sin Taung copper mine site remained unresolved.

“If the [Letpadaung] project is to be continued, there is an investigation report and an implementation committee. Locals, the government and the company should meet and try to solve the issues. The Letpadaung project should continue only after problems are solved,” he said.

In Shan State, various extractive projects from gold mining to silicon mining, hydropower and coal are underway, according to MATA representative Zaw Tun.

“We have seen that the state government lacks accountability and [won’t accept] responsibility for solving these problems in Shan State,” he said.

In July 2014, Burma was accepted as a candidate for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary reporting protocol promoting the transparent and responsible management of natural resources.

As an initial requirement, Burma will have to file its first EITI report in early 2016.