Lead Mine Halts Production on Water Pollution Fears

By Yen Saning 18 May 2015

RANGOON — A lead mine near Tenasserim Division’s Kalonehtar village has temporarily ceased operations after villagers asked the mine’s owner’s to stop polluting the area’s only water source.

Over 100 villagers visited the mine on Saturday to request the company halt production. The mine’s waste products, disposed of nearby, had earlier this year begun to make their way into the Talaingyar stream after soaking into the topsoil at a dumpsite.

Tin Than, a midwife living in the village, said that locals were concerned the polluted water would damage nearby orchards once the rainy season begins.

“The downstream water has become muddy now and we can’t catch fish anymore,” she told The Irrawaddy. “We asked them to stop their work until they fix the damage caused to the village.”

Villagers have requested that the company improves its waste management practices and builds a filtered water tank in Kalonehtar, home to about 200 households. The 407th Burma Army Battalion, stationed nearby, has also approached the company about the polluted stream, which it relies upon for bathing, drinking and cooking.

“The soil and other waste from the mine is like a mountain now,” said Ye Lin Myint of the Dawei Development Association. “When it rains, this soil will block the stream and change the water flow. The orchards owned by the villagers will be lost… The company is using diesel and coal tar in the mine, and the waste water is being disposed of in the stream as well.”

Sein Myint, a retired deputy director of the Ministry of Mines, said that the country’s laws explicitly forbade disposing of mining chemicals into the water table, and companies were required to filter wastewater until it was no longer harmful to human beings.

“We have to check who has allowed throwing chemicals directly into the stream,” he told The Irrawaddy. “A systematic disposal plan is required by the ministry.”

The mine has been run by the ANA&NRD Company since 2000 and is scheduled to operate until next year. Kalonehtar itself has been included in the project area for the Dawei Special Economic Zone, with plans to build a water reservoir to supply the development. Villagers have opposed the plan, concerned about the risk of flooding.