Copper Mine Conspiracy Alleged

By Nyein Nyein 25 September 2012

A brother of the detained deputy operations manager at Monywa copper mine has called for justice, claiming that his brother and a colleague have been wrongfully arrested in relation to the illegal production of 338 tonnes of copper when, in fact, they were only following orders from their boss.

Deputy operations manager Aung Law Har and supply officer Kyaw Swe of Monywa’s Sabetaung and Kyaysintaung copper mines were detained at the Sarlingyi police station near Monywa in Sagaing Division in the last week of August.

“We know that he [Aung Law Har] is accused of omitting to provide information to the state during that period,” Aung Law Kee said of his brother. “But he was just following orders from his boss.”

Aung Law Kee told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that he had submitted a letter of appeal to Burmese President Thein Sein, as well as to the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, various House committees including Aung San Suu Kyi’s Rule of Law and Stability committee, the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, and the 88 Generation Students Group.

The two detained employees have been charged under the 1963 Public Property Protection Law, accused of failure to report data relating to the processing and transportation of a huge quantity of copper during an interim period in January 2011 when the company’s ownership was being transferred between a joint Canadian-Burmese firm to a joint Chinese-Burmese firm.

Aung Law Har and Kyaw Swe work for the the Myanmar Jiangxi Copper Limited, which is a joint venture between military-owned Myanmar Economics Holding Company Ltd and the Chinese Jiangxi Copper Co, the largest producer of metal for China. They had previously worked at the Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Co Ltd (MICCL), a joint venture between state-owned Mining Enterprise 1 and the Canadian-owned Ivanhoe company. Jiangxi Copper bought the shares from Ivanhoe in 2010.

Sixty-four-year-old ethnic Chin Aung Law Har is scheduled to appear at a Sarlingyi court on Wednesday, his first hearing since he was detained four weeks ago.

His brother said that Aung Law Har had worked in the mining industry for many years, including 12 years at MICCL before he became process superintendent as well as deputy operations manager at the Monywa mine in 2010.

The letter said the accused did not attempt to conceal any information nor did he make a mistake with the data—he was simply following the orders of acting General Manager Glenn Ford of Ivanhoe in arranging for the transport of the 338 tonnes of copper to Rangoon.

A total of four people—Glenn Ford, executive officer Ms Thiri, Aung Law Har and Kyaw Swe—are all accused of conspiring to conceal data; however Ford and Ms Thiri have supposedly disappeared.

“Mr Ford told Aung Law Har to disregard the production records, the meeting minutes, and the record of the mine’s activity in the one-week period when it should have been closed during the transfer of ownership,” said Aung Law Kee in his letter. “The [illegally extracted 338 tonnes of] copper was subsequently diverted to an address under the ownership of executive owner Ms Thiri and not to the regular storage facility in Rangoon.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Aung Law Kee said, “My brother is responsible for all the copper processing and transportation to Rangoon, and he kept all those details in personal records. However, the decisions about storage and the sale of the copper were outside his remit.”

The Sabetaung and Kyaysintaung copper mines are located to the west of Monywa. Local residents have suffered from environmental and health problems for more than four decades which they allege is due to the chemicals and polluted air from the mines, said Myint Thein, a lawyer in Monywa.

Myint Thein recently told The Irrawaddy that the residents who live nearby face a shortage of clean drinking water, drought in their wells, damage to their homes and crops, and many cases of ill health.

Meanwhile, the residents at the new Latpadaung copper mine have recently held protests urging a closure to the project, saying they are witnessing similar health defects and environmental destruction as residents at the Sabetaung and Kyaysintaung projects.