China-backed projects in Myanmar are now under threat from resistance forces with 16 groups in Sagaing Region warning Chinese-run copper mines in Salingyi to halt operations.
Salingyi is home to the Chinese-run Letpadaung, Sapetaung and Kyesintaung copper mines and resistance groups in Salingyi and Yinmabin have called on miners to down tools and join the civil disobedience movement (CDM) by May 5.
The three mines are run by Wanbao Mining, Ltd. and its two subsidiaries, Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper, Ltd. and Myanmar Yang Tse Copper, Ltd. in partnership with the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd.
Wanbao is a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned defense firm China North Industries Corporation.
In July 2021, the US sanctioned Wanbao Mining and its entities for supporting Myanmar’s military regime.
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 in Sagaing paid an estimated US$725 million to the military during the 2020-21 financial year.
The resistance groups said they will not allow joint ventures between Myanmar’s military and Chinese companies to operate in the region while people are fighting to uproot the dictatorship.
They said they will attack all sources of funding for the dictatorship with any means.
In January, resistance fighters blew up electricity pylons supplying the China-backed Tagaung Taung nickel-processing plant in Sagaing Region, which forced production to halt.
The Chinese copper mines in Sagaing have long been a source of public fury for destroying the environment and seizing people’s land.
Since the coup, Chinese projects have been largely safe despite the resistance forces’ attacks on police and soldiers guarding some Chinese projects. But the collective announcement on Thursday was the first open warning to Chinese projects in the country.
China has been seriously denounced in Myanmar for its failure to condemn the coup last year and its veto of UN Security Council action against the regime.
While the regime is treated as an outcast by most western democracies, China has been one of the few countries to engage with the junta, as it is one of Myanmar’s top investors with many strategic infrastructure projects, including energy pipelines and a proposed Rakhine State port that would give China access to the Indian Ocean.
Recently, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told his junta-appointed counterpart that China was ready to work with Myanmar to deepen exchanges and cooperation in all areas, “no matter how the situation changes”. The remark prompted a warning from the civilian National Unity Government that any effort to build a partnership with the regime would be rejected by Myanmar’s people and could seriously damage China’s international reputation.
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