MANDALAY — The chief minister of Sagaing Division ordered the shutdown of quarries around Letpadaung Copper Mine after clashes between protesting locals and police last week left 15 people injured.
“We’ve received several complaints over the quarries, regarding environmental issues as well as the social impact on nearby villages,” Chief Minister U Myint Naing told The Irrawaddy. “So, I decided to issue an order to stop them until further notice.”
On Friday last week, about 30 protestors from Moegyopyin village gathered on the road between a quarry site and the Wanbao mining company building to block dump trucks that they said do not follow traffic rules and cause accidents.
The protesters reopened the road after assurances of an investigation from the chief minister, but there were reports that they blocked the road again on Saturday.
U Myint Naing said the order would remain in place while the regional government investigated the quarrying of rocks seven miles from the copper mine area that are used as filters during copper production.
“Residents have complained and protested the mine’s trucks crossing their villages and not obeying traffic rules to transport stones and rocks quarried from the hills and mountains, which [Wanbao] was not permitted to do,” he said.
“So, we will talk with the company and investigate to find a solution for the sake of the livelihood of the locals,” he added.
Ma Zar Chi Lin from Moegyopyin village said protesters had reopened the road as they believed in the chief minister’s promise to investigate, though they were skeptical of Wanbao’s commitment to local residents.
“We don’t trust the mining company, so we are watching the government’s investigation result with great caution,” said Ma Zar Chi Lin from Moegyopyin village.
Some 50 protestors from Moegyopyin village were sued by local police under the Peaceful Assembly Law on Tuesday for road blockages in the past few weeks.
“At the same time the chief minister said he would negotiate with the company, the police who brutally dispersed us, sued us again,” said Ko Pho Toke from Hse Te village. “It clearly shows us that we have no one to trust.”
“That’s why we will not call off our protests but just draw back for a while until we have heard news from the chief minister’s investigation team,” Ko Pho Toke added.