MAWLAMYINE, Mon State — Mon State Parliament agreed on Tuesday to debate the legality of a cement factory’s controversial coal-fired power plant in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township
The proposal was submitted by Mon State lawmaker U Aung Kyaw Thu who also questioned the residency of foreigners in the cement plant.
“Power generation without permission is a blatant violation,” he told Mon State Parliament.
“Though it is said that no one should be above the law, existing laws are hardly ever followed,” he said, adding that local and foreign investors failing to abide by laws damaged the dignity of the new government.
The US$400 million cement factory run by Mawlamyine Cement Limited (MCL)—a joint venture between Thai firm Siam Cement Group (SCG) and Pacific Link Cement Industries—is powered by a 49-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
Last month, the committee for the assessment of financial, planning and economic matters in the Mon State Parliament asked the Ministry of Electricity and Energy about the coal-fired power facilities the cement factory.
The ministry replied that it had not approved power generation with coal.
However, MCL managing director Mr Surachai Pornjindachote said in a statement on Aug. 29 that the cement factory received permission from the Mon State Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection to run a 20-megawatt coal-fired turbine valid from January 2017 to Feb. 15, 2018.
Lawmaker U Aung Kyaw Thu argued the coal-fired power plant did not seek approval under the 2014 Electricity Law and the 2016 Mon State medium- and small-scale electricity supply by-law
According to the Electricity Law, heavy-scale electricity production—classified as 30 megawatts and above—needs the approval of the Union government. Production of less than 30 megawatts needs the approval of the concerned region or state governments.
MCL has violated both provisions, said chairperson of Mon State Parliament Bill Committee Daw Khaing Khaing Lei.
“They can only generate electricity with permission. This is not my remark, but the remark of the Union ministry,” she said.
She said the Directorate of Industrial Supervision and Inspection had only given permission to operate a boiler, but not to produce electricity.
In MCL’s Aug. 29 statement, Surachai Pornjindachote said they were keen to use other sources of energy for cement production if it was able to provide sufficient and reliable energy.
The factory started commercial operations in April despite local residents staging several protests against the cement factory over health concerns.
Coal to power the 5,000-ton cement factory is imported from Indonesia and Australia, and so far over 200,000 tons of coal have been imported.
Lime used in cement production comes from Mount Pya Taung in Kuam Ngan village in Kyaikmayaw Township, where a semi-open mining system has been used to reduce environmental impact, said mining engineer Ko Myo Thiha of MCL.
The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain comment from MCL.