Junta Forces Kill Striking Employees of China-backed Mine in Upper Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 7 June 2022

Myanmar’s military regime has detained and killed striking employees of China-backed copper mines in Sagaing Region’s Salingyi Township, alleging that they have ties to People’s Defense Forces (PDF), said a local resistance group.

On May 25, regime soldiers killed two striking employees from Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Ltd., said the Phoenix without Border guerilla group.

The two victims were identified as Ko Kyaw Nyein, who worked in the processing department, and Ko Chit Thein Zaw, who worked in the mining department. Both men were from Ywa Thar Village in Salingyi, said Phoenix without Border.

The duo fled during a junta raid and were caught in Done Taw Village. Their bodies were found at the cemetery of Kan Kone Village, according to the guerilla group. The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the report.

Junta troops also reportedly detained U Thein Naing, a section head of the Myanmar Yang Tse Ltd mining department on June 1. Pro-junta telegram accounts claimed that U Thein Naing had ties to PDFs.

In April, 16 resistance groups in Sagaing warned China-run copper mines to halt operations by May 5, saying that the mines are helping fund the Myanmar military whose air raids, arson attacks and artillery strikes have devastated much of rural Sagaing.

Chinese mining company Wanbao and its two subsidiaries, Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. and Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Ltd., run three copper mines – Letpadaung, Sabetaung and Kyesintaung – in Sagaing’s Salingyi Township, in partnership with the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd.

The mines have long been a source of public fury for being built on confiscated land and destroying the environment. Letpadaung copper mine, especially, has made headlines for many years due to land disputes and a series of violent crackdowns against anti-mine protesters.

The warning to cease operations by the PDFs followed an attempt by Wanbao to resume mining after output at the mines fell dramatically due to employees going on strike since last year’s coup.

Resistance groups said that junta troops have raided villages near the copper mines since their warning.

On May 5, Wanbao expressed “deep concerns” in response to the threats from the PDFs.

Wanbao is a subsidiary of the state-owned defense firm China North Industries Corporation. In July 2021, the US sanctioned Wanbao Mining and its entities for supporting Myanmar’s regime and has also banned the trade of copper from the mines on the London Metal Exchange.

Regime forces have been raiding and torching villages across Salingyi and neighboring Yinmabin townships, but resistance remains strong in those areas with locals continuing to stage protests against the junta.

On Sunday, PDFs fired mortar shells at the main Salingyi police station and junta checkpoints. At least five regime soldiers are believed to have been injured, according to Salingyi PDF.