Letpadaung Mine Development Risks Further Abuses: Amnesty

By Sean Gleeson 28 November 2014

RANGOON — Plans for the development of the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region pose a serious threat of human rights abuses and environmental risk, Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.

Ahead of the two-year anniversary of a violent attack on protestors, Amnesty drew also attention to the fact that no one has been brought to account for the incident.

At least 99 monks and nine other protestors were injured in the attack, with many suffering permanent scarring and injuries from white phosphorous burns, the use of which is prohibited by international weapons conventions.

“Two years after this brutal attack, it is completely unacceptable that the scores of people injured while protesting are still waiting for justice and reparations,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s director of global issues.

Four villages are being completely cleared for the mine, with 245 households moved to resettlement sites and a further 196 currently refusing to leave their homes. Land around 26 other farming villages, home to more than 25,000 people, is also being acquired by the project.

Amnesty said that villagers have been misinformed about their land acquisitions, with authorities allegedly using a promise to compensate farmers for crop damage as cover to acquire land.

“The authorities should urgently set up a genuine consultation with the affected villages on the land acquisition and proposed evictions,” said Gaughran. “They must guarantee that no one will be forcibly evicted.”

An environmental and social impact assessment commissioned by one of the mine’s operators fails to detail plans for waste storage and other environmental safeguards, according to Amnesty.

The organization also expressed concerns about the close proximity of the 26 villages to mine sites and a factory that supplies Letpadaung with sulphuric acid.

Operations at Letpadaung were suspended for nearly a year after police attacked a peaceful protest in November 2012. When the project resumed, a new contract allocated a 51 percent stake to the Burmese government. The original partners, Chinese mining company Wanbao Mining Ltd and the military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, retaining a 49 percent share.

Protests at the site have been widespread, including an incident in May where three contractors were kidnapped and held hostage by student activists and monks.

Last year, Thant Shin, a minister from the President’s Office, blamed local criticism of the project on activists who opposed the project for political reasons.