Hundreds of Yebyu Protesters Call for Mining Law Compliance

By Yen Saning 18 January 2016

RANGOON — Some 300 locals in Kanbauk village, in Tenasserim Division’s Yebyu Township, staged a protest on Monday accusing a company of reckless mining in the area.

Protesters, bearing signs demanding protection of natural resources, called on Delco mining company to take responsibility for the damage wrought by a recently ruptured water filtering and sediment tank, to cease dumping waste into a nearby stream, and to comply with mining legislation enacted to prevent damage to the environment, Khin Soe, a resident, told The Irrawaddy.

A wastewater tank broke in September, sweeping away 19 houses and drowning one child. Initially, the divisional government deemed the incident a natural disaster. But the family of the deceased child was eventually compensated 7 million kyats (US$5,400), while all destroyed houses were rebuilt and their owners given small compensation for property loss.

Still, locals say there was no change following the accident, and mining in the area has since resumed.

“We’re protesting today because [the company] hasn’t satisfactorily negotiated with villagers,” Khin Soe said. “We told them after the first incident that we don’t want something like that to happen again, and that they shouldn’t harm the environment and must comply with mining law. But they haven’t extended any promises to us.”

The village’s close proximity to the mining has pressed locals to ask if they should, helped by proper compensation, relocate their houses and orchards. But Khin Soe said the company merely ignored locals’ grievances, and this, coupled with a lack of investigation and sufficient management on the part of the government, drove hundreds to protest.

Khin Soe added that 4-5 feet of muddy water build-up caused by the company’s disposal of waste flows alarmingly close to a stream near the homes of some villagers.

“Although there’s no harm during the dry season, it could be worse during the rainy season.”

An officer for Delco, however, said he was unaware of the company’s waste disposal procedures at the site but added that the company would rectify the situation.

Villagers hope for a three-party dialogue between Kanbauk locals, Delco representatives and the government that will ultimately lead to compliance with mining industry regulations.