Myanmar Military-Chinese Copper Mining Stops as Workers Join Anti-Coup Protests

By The Irrawaddy 11 February 2021

Yangon – Work has ceased at copper mines run by Chinese firms in cooperation with Myanmar’s military in Sagaing Region after thousands of laborers joined the civil disobedience movement against the military coup.

By Monday more than 2,000 miners from the Kyisintaung copper mines in Monwya District, a joint venture since 2010 between the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Yang Tse Copper Mining – a subsidiary of Bejing-based Wanbao Mining Limited – joined the civil disobedience movement against the coup.

About 300 miners from the project launched the movement on Feb. 5 and copper mining at Kyisintaung halted on Monday, according to the workers.

“We are trying to save our country. I urge people to participate in the movement and for the release of our president and Mother Suu [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi],’’ Ko Sithu Tun, a mechanic at Kyisintaung, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

The Letpadaung Taung copper mine in Sagaing’s Salingyi Township, another joint venture between MEHL and Wanbao, also stopped operations after thousands of employees joined the movement by Feb. 8.

Letpadaung has been estimated to the biggest copper mine in Southeast Asia.

Some operations are still being run by Chinese laborers, according to protesters.

Sagaing is home to several large copper mines operated by Chinese companies, including Sabetaung, Letpadaung and Kyisintaung.

Around 7,000 workers from Myanmar are estimated to be employed at Kyisintaung and Letpadaung combined.

A solvent extraction worker at the Letpadaung project, who asked to remain anonymous, said the protests will continue until the elected government is reinstated. “The military regime is totally unacceptable and we joined the movement to increase pressure on it.”

Thousands of government staff across Myanmar are participating in the civil disobedience movement that was launched by hundreds of doctors and nurses last Wednesday to defy military rule.

The movement has called for the release of all those detained since the coup on Feb.1 and for the parliament to convene with those democratically elected in the November 8 general election.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Facebook page called on the public to oppose the coup.

Tens of thousands of people take the streets in major cities each day to protest against military rule.

People also clap, honk car horns and bang pots and pans at 8pm every night across the country to defy the military regime.

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