Myanmar Resistance Forces China-Backed Nickel Plant Shut Down

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2022

Three electricity pylons supplying the China-backed Tagaung Taung nickel-processing plant in Sagaing Region have been blown up this month, forcing production to halt.

Tigyaing Township People’s Defense Force (PDF) said it blew up the pylons on January 7.

The nickel project opened in July 2008 with a 20-year production-sharing contract between the No.1 Mining Enterprise of Myanmar and Chinese state-owned firm China Nonferrous Metal Mining (CNMC).

With an investment of US$800 million, the project is the largest nickel production site in Myanmar with an annual production of 85,000 tonnes of ferronickel, according to the joint venture Myanmar CNMC Nickel.

Around 5,000 tonnes of ferronickel ore each day is transported from the Mt Tagaung mine in Thabeikkyin Township, Mandalay Region, to Tigyaing where the nickel is smelted.

The Chinese Embassy in Yangon has reportedly complained to the parallel National Unity Government about the explosions but no details are known.

Chinese mining companies in Myanmar are being called on to demonstrate greater social responsibility and accountability and withdraw their investments since last year’s coup.

Activists have pushed for the closures of China-backed mines. A report by Publish What You Pay Australia — a coalition of 30 organizations campaigning for transparency and accountability in the extractive industries — said Chinese-backed mines were financially propping up the junta.

The report, How Chinese Mining Investment Funds the Myanmar Military, released in November last year, said the Chinese-run Letpadaung, Sapetaung and Kyesintaung and Tagaung Taung mines paid an estimated US$725 million to the military during the 2020-21 financial year.

Myanmar’s three largest mines are run by Chinese state-owned enterprises, Wanbao Mining Ltd and CNMC, with a slice of the profits flowing to the generals, said the report.

It said Myanmar’s economy has been in freefall since the coup meaning the regime is increasingly reliant on oil and gas, gemstones and metal mining, often with heavy Chinese investment.

More than 1,400 people have been killed by the junta since its takeover in February last year, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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