Massive Land Confiscation for Copper Mine

By Khin Oo Tha 4 May 2012

Over 7,800 acres of farmland in Salingyi Township, Sagaing Division, has been confiscated for a copper mine project with landowners forced out of their villages, according to local sources.

A number of concerned residents told The Irrawaddy that grabbed lands belong to people in Salingyi’s Hse Te, Zee Daw, Wet Hmay and Kan Taw villages and authorities ordered residents to leave the area earlier this year. Most of the villagers do not want to relocate but some have already left, they claim.

Farmers also said that they were only given a small amount of compensation for their property as, according to company officials and local authorities, their lands are actually owned by the state and the confiscation was carried out by presidential order.

“Copper produced from this project can be fixed with a price but our farmlands are priceless. Those lands can exist forever so I don’t want any compensation no matter how much it is,” said Khin Maung Win, one of the victims.

Locals also told The Irrawaddy that farmers have submitted an appeal to President Thein Sein, the chief minister of Sagaing Division and other relevant authorities in order to get their lands returned, but no measures have been taken in response so far.

Led by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and two Chinese companies, copper mining in Kyaysintaung and Letpantaung areas of Salingyi reportedly began in late 2011.

A similar project is also operating in Monywa, the capital of Sagaing Division, in which a Chinese company is reportedly involved.

The copper project in Monywa is one of the largest in Burma. It was initiated by the Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Ltd (MICCL)—a joint venture between the former Burmese Ministry of Mines-1 and the Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines.

The US Treasury Department put the MICCL onto its sanctions list in 2009.